by Anindita Adhikari | 2019 | 56,368 words
This page relates ‘Samhita (2): Horse-headed sage Dadhyanc Atharvan’ of the study on Lord Hayagriva as found in Sanskrit Literature such as the Vedas, Upanishads, Mahabharata, Puranas and Tantras. Hayagriva as an incarnation of Vishnu is worshipped as the supreme Lord of knowledge and wisdom but also symbolizes power and intelligence. His name means “the horse-headed one”.
In the Vedic mythology Dadhyañc, an ancient sage, son of Ātharvan, is mentioned nine times in the Ṛgveda.  He is kindled agni and is mentioned with Atharvan, Aṅgiras, Manu and other ancient sacrificers. In the Ṛgveda he is a divinity of some kind, but in the later Saṃhitās and the Brāhmaṇas he is metamorphosed into a teacher. In the purāṇas he reappears as Dadhicī.
Dadhyañc Ātharvan is described as having the head of horse in the Ṛgveda. The main story about the great sage Dadhyañc Ātharvan is as follows:
Indra taught the wisdom of madhuvidyā or pravargyavidyā to Dadhyañc and warned him that if he gave away that secret wisdom to anybody his head would be cut off. Aśvin brothers wanted to be enlightened with knowledge and approached Dadhyañc to learn madhuvidyā from him. But conscious of Indra’s threatening Dadhyañc refused to teach them the secret wisdom madhuvidyā. To overcome this obstacle Aśvins cut off his original head and fixed a head of horse on the trunk of Dadhyañc. With this horse head Dadhyañc taught them madhuvidyā and when the teaching was over, his horse head was cut off as forewarned by Indra. Then Aśvins brought the original head and fixed it in the accurate place of his body. This teaching of madhuvidyā by the horse headed sage Dadhyañc is relevant to the development of the horse headed form and also associated with learning and wisdom. It may be the earliest evidence of a head-transplantation, a horse head placed on human trunk for serving a specific purpose. This same story is also available in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa. Sāyaṇa sheds some light on this vedic myth. Some say that “the head of the sacrifice is the head of the sacrificial horse, the elixir of immortality, Soma, revives the sacrificial animal, as the ocean waters feed the fiery head.”
In the Ṛgveda the deliberation of the secret knowledge madhuvidyā by horse headed Dadhyañc has been mentioned several times.
In this context Sāyaṇa says in his commentary:
“Indro dadhīce pravargyavidyā madhuvidyāṃ copadiśya yadi imāṃ anyasmai vakṣasi śiraste chetsyāmīsyuvāca. Tato’śvinau aśvasya śiraścitvā dadhīcaḥ śiraḥ pracchidyānyatra nidhāya tatrāśvyaṃ śiraḥ pratyadhatyāṃ. Tena ca dadhyañc ṛcaḥ sāmāni yajuṃṣi ca pravargya viṣayāṇi madhuvidyā pratipādanaṃ brāhmaṇaṃ ca aśvinā vadhyāpayāmāsa. Tadindro jñātvā vajreṇa tacchiro’tcchinat. Tathāśvinau tasya svakīyaṃ mānuṣaṃ śiraḥ pratyadhatyāmiti.”
“Ātharvaṇāyāśvinā dadhīce’śvyaṃ śiraḥ pratyairayataṃ/
Sa vāṃ madhu pravocadṛtāyantvāṣṭraṃ yaddasrāvapikakṣe vāṃ//”
O Aśvins, you set head of a horse on Dadhyañc Ātharvan -keeping his words he taught you the ‘honey’ (madhuvidyā pertaining to the sacrifice) concerning Tvāṣṭraṃ [Tvāṣṭra] and also that (madhuvidya, the esoteric knowledge) which was to be kept in secrecy. In this context Sāyaṇa says that:
“He aśvinau ātharvanāya atharvanaḥ putrāya dadhīce dadhyañcnāmne maharṣaye aśvaṃ aśvasaṃvandhi śiraḥ pratairayataṃ pratyadhattaṃ tadīyaṃ mānuṣaṃ śiraḥ pracchiddya anyatra vidhāya aśvyena śiraṣā tamṛṣiṃ samayojayatamityarthaḥ. Sa ca vāṃ yuvābhyāṃ pravargyavidhyāṃ madhuvidyāṃ ca vakṣyāmīti purā kṛtāṃ pratijñāṃ ṛtāyan satyāmātmana icchan madhu madhuvidyāṃ tvāṣṭrṃ tvaṣṭurindrāllavdhaṃ pravocat proktavān. He dasrau darśanīyāvaśvinau vāṃ yuvayoḥ saṃvandhi yat apikakṣyaṃ chinnasya yajñaśirasaḥ kakṣapradeśena punaḥsaṃdhānabhūtaṃ pravargyavidyākhyaṃ rahasyaṃ tadapi vāṃ yuvābhyāṃ prāvocadityarthaḥ.”
In another verse of the Ṛgveda the Aśvins win the heart of Dadhyañc and then with the horses head he teaches them madhuvidyā, the esoteric knowledge:
Sāyaṇa says in his commentary:
“Yuvāṃ dadhīca ātharvaṇasya ṛṣeḥ manaḥ cittaṃ śuśrūṣayā ā vivāsathaḥ paryacarataṃ. Atha anantaraṃ tasminprīte sati aśvyaṃ yuvābhyāṃ pratihitaṃ aśvasya smvandhi yat śiraḥ tat vāṃ yuvāṃ prati madhuvidyāmavadat. Sa ṛṣiḥ aśvena śirasā upadiṣṭvānityartha.”
From the above discussion it is evident that madhuvidyā, the esoteric knowledge, is closely connected with Aśvins, the twin gods of healing and illumination. This Vedic account is mentioned in the Bṛhadāraṇyak Upaniṣad in reference to the description of madhuvidyā.
Footnotes and references:
A.A: Macdonell. Op. cit. p. 141.
Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, 14,1.1.18-25.
O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger: ‘loc.cit.’ p. 463.
Commentary of Sāyana on ibid.,1.117.22, p. 739.
Tvaṣṭā is a Vedic god related to the sun, the moon and fire. He is known as the revealer of forms (rūpa-vikartā), the keeper of the divine honey. The ‘honey’ that he guards is nothing other than ‘light’ that gets reflected on the moon, which delights the gods and soothes the mortals. The Bṛhaddevatā thus explains this concept. Thus, “the one of the thousand parts of the solar rays that gets reflected on the moon and that which resides in the earth in fire is the honey (madhu) that rests on tvaṣṭā.” Bṛhaddevatā, 3.17.
Commentary of Sāyana on Ṛgveda, 1.119.9b, p.750.