Women in the Atharva-veda Samhita

by Pranab Jyoti Kalita | 2017 | 62,142 words

This page relates ‘5d. Hymn for Fruitful Conception’ of the study on women in the Vedic society reflecting the Atharva-veda Samhita in English. These pages discusses the social aspects of women, education, customs of marriage, practices of polyandry and polygamy, descriptions of female deities and various rites and rituals. It is shown how women earned much praise in ancient Indian society. Included are Sanskrit text and references of the Atharvaveda and commentary by Sayana-Acharya.

[Full title: 5. Hymns Related to Birth (d): Hymn for Fruitful Conception]

In yet another hymn, that gets started with the mantra, yatheyaṃ pṛthivī[1] …, etc., also contains such materials. In this entire hymn, the glorification of the Earth is found. Because of her greatness, she has enjoyed a deified and exalted position in the Vedic literature, especially in the Atharvaveda, and she is called Mahī, i.e. the great.[2] Her glorification in other references will be discussed in detail in another chapter. In the present hymn, she is spoken of as receiving the embryo of all the living beings.[3] She holds the germs of the existences up to ten months.[4] She maintains all the trees, the rugged mountains and even all the beings scattered over the world.[5]

The significance of this concerned hymn lies on the fact that here, a woman is compared with this great Earth.[6] Not only for once, she is likened to the Earth again and again, for all the attributes, assigned to the Earth.[7] She is asked to maintain the embryo in order to birth up to ten months as the great Earth does.[8]

Another noticeable point of this hymn is that the first line of the first mantra also occurs in another hymn[9] of the Atharvaveda. There too, the comparison between the Earth and the woman may be observed.[10] That particular hymn, though not enumerated by Bloomfield in his list, entirely pertains to woman.

That hymn, which starts with the mantra, parvatād divo[11] …, etc., at the very beginning, describes the casting of the seed into the womb.[12] The deposition of the seed is compared with the insertion of the feather into the arrow-shaft as understood by Whitney.[13] As a work of effective skill, the insertion of the feather into the arrow-shaft is the subject of comparison in the Ṛgveda[14] also.

After the deposition of the seed, the woman is called to protect the same as the great Earth receives the embryo of the existences.[15] Then, in another mantra,[16] the Aśvins, garlanded with golden lotus, Sinīvālī and Sarasvatī are invoked to place the embryo. The same mantra with a little variation, occurs in the Ṛgveda[17] also. Besides, Mitra and Varuṇa, Bṛhaspati, Indra and Agni and Dhātṛ are also prayed to do the same.[18] Viṣṇu is lauded to prepare the womb[19] while Tvaṣṭṛ is asked to form the embryo,[20] especially with the genital organs.[21] Prajāpati is asked to pour on the embryo[22] and Dhātṛ to place the same into the womb.[23] This reference also appears in the Ṛgveda[24] without any variation.

Noticeably, in this hymn, the woman, for whom fecundation has been desired is prescribed to drink some sort of liquor which causes the impregnation successful.[25] Varuṇa, Sarasvatī and Indra are ascribed as the authority of that liquor.[26] Agni, who resides in the womb of the herbs, plants and of all the existences is also asked to place the embryo into the womb of the woman.[27] The presence of Agni in the womb of all the existences repeatedly occurs in another reference of the same Veda.[28] Apart from these, Dhātṛ, Tvaṣṭṛ, Savitṛ and Prajāpati are also lauded to enable the woman along with her two gavīnī nāḍīs so that she may give birth to a male child with the best form after ten months.[29] Though Sāyaṇācārya has not commented on this concerned hymn, yet, in other references,[30] he interprets gavīnī as the two ducts of female mammals which connect the ovaries with the uterus. Karambelkar[31] understands gavīnī as the two fallopian tubes which conduct the ova from the ovaries to the interior of the womb. Thus, this hymn portrays the preparation of the then people for safe and fruitful conception.

Footnotes and references:


Atharvaveda, 6.17


yatheyaṃ pṛthivī mahī … / Ibid., 6.17.1-4


yatheyaṃ pṛthivī mahī bhūtānāṃ garbhamādadhe / Ibid., 6.17.1


pārthivaśarīropādānabhūtaṃ garbhaṃ daśamāsāvadhi bibhartītyarthaḥ / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.


cf., Atharvaveda, 6.17.2-4


cf., Ibid., 6.17.1-4


cf., Ibid.


evā te dhriyatāṃ garbho anu sūtuṃ savitave / Ibid.


Ibid., 5.25.2


cf., Ibid.


Ibid., 5.25


parvatād divo yoneraṅgādaṅgāt samābhṛtam / śepo garbhasya retodhāḥ sarau parṇamivā dadhat // Ibid., 5.25.1


Vide, Whitney, W.D. (ed. & trans.), Op.cit., Vol. I, p.265


cf., Ṛgveda, 10.18.14


yatheyaṃ pṛthivī mahī bhūtānāṃ garbhamādadhe / evā dadhāmi te garbhaṃ tasmai tvāmavase huve // Atharvaveda, 5.25.2


garbhaṃ dhehi sinīvāli garbhaṃ dhehi sarasvati / garbhaṃ te aśvinobhā dhattāṃ puṣkarasrajā // Ibid., 5.25.3


The Ṛgvedic mantra, garbhaṃ dhehi …etc. (Ṛgveda 10.184.2) reads aśvinau devāvā in place of aśvinobhā of the Atharvavedic one.


garbhaṃ te mitrāvaruṇau garbhaṃ devo bṛhaspatiḥ / garbhaṃ ta indraścāgniśca garbhaṃ dhātā dadhātu te // Atharvaveda, 5.25.4


viṣṇuryoniṃ kalpayatu … / Ibid., 5.25.5


tvaṣṭā rūpāṇi piṃśatu / Ibid.


tvaṣṭā tanukartā etatsaṃjñako devaśca rūpāṇi nirūpakāni strītvapuṃstvabhivyañjakāni cihnāni piṃśatu avayavīkarotu / Sāyaṇa while interpreting the same mantra on Ṛgveda, 10.184.1


ā siñcatu prajāpatiḥ … / Atharvaveda, 5.25.5


… dhātā garbhaṃ dadhātu te / Ibid.


cf., Ṛgveda, 10.184.1


… tad garbhakaraṇaṃ piba / Atharvaveda, 5.25.6


yad veda rājā varuṇo yad vā devī sarasvatī / yadindro vṛtrahā veda tad garbhakaraṇaṃ piba // Ibid.


garbho asyoṣadhīnāṃ garbho vanaspatīnām / garbho viśvasya bhūtasya so agne garbhameha dhāḥ // Ibid., 5.25.7


cf., Ibid., 6.95.3


cf., Ibid., 5.25.10-16


āntrebhyo vinirgatasya mūtrasya mūtrāśayaprāptisādhane pārśvadvayasthe nāḍyau gavīnyau ityucyate / Sāyaṇa, Ibid., 1.3.6


Vide, Karambelkar, V.W., The Atharvaveda and the Āyurveda, p.105

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