Women in the Atharva-veda Samhita

by Pranab Jyoti Kalita | 2017 | 62,142 words

This page relates ‘6d. Hymn to Put a Woman to Sleep’ 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: 6. Hymns Related to Love and Jealousy (d): Hymn to Put a Woman to Sleep]

The Atharvaveda records one such hymn,[1] which contains incantations to put a woman along with her family members to sleep. The mantra, sahasraśṛṅgo vṛṣabho…, etc., is the first one of that hymn, which occurs in the Ṛgveda[2] also without any variation.

In this mantra, it has been stated that to put someone to sleep is required the help of Āditya who fulfils the desires of his laudators, or who causes rain.[3] Āditya is also spoken of as sahasraśṛṅga, i.e. containing thousands of rays.[4]

The wind is asked not to blow over the earth so that sleep may not be disturbed with its blowing and that one who desires to make others to sleep wants himself not to be seen by others.[5] Here, wind is called as the friend of Indra, the soul and he is asked to make all the women and the dogs to sleep.[6] The women who are lying on the floor, lying on the bed, lying on the litter and who are odored well are wanted to be slept.[7]

Moreover, all the moving beings along with their limbs are also wanted to be seized by sleep in the depth of the night.[8] The eyes of those who are sitting, who are looking here and there, are to be shut down so that no one can see anymore as if the eyes of the house are been closed down.[9]

The reason why someone tries to make others to sleep can be inferred from the commentary of Sāyaṇācārya that a man desiring an assignation with certain woman acts so. Firstly, he wants to put her mother to sleep and then, her father.[10] Even the dog that guards their house and their relatives are also wanted to be captured by sleep.[11]

The man also calls the god, presiding over sleep, to impose sleep over all of them until the Sun rises[12] so that he may awake till dawn like Indra, who is unharmed and unexhausted.[13]

From this hymn, it may be assumed that this type of incantations was used to be performed by a man in order to get his erotic desires to be fulfilled.

Footnotes and references:


Atharvaveda, 4.5


cf., Ṛgveda, 7.55.7


sahasraśṛṅgo vṛṣabho yaḥ samudrādudācarat / tenā sahasyenā vayaṃ ni janānsvāpayāmasi // Atharvaveda, 4.5.1 sahasraśṛṅgaḥ sahasraraśmiḥ sūryaḥ vṛṣabhaḥ varṣitā kāmānāṃ vṛṣṭi jalasya vā / … / tādṛśena ādityena janān avasthitāna ni ṣvāpayāmasi niṣvāpayāmaḥ / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.


sahasraśṛṅgo vṛṣabhaḥ … / Atharvaveda, 4.5.1


na bhūmiṃ vāto ati vāti nāti paśyati kañcana / Ibid., 4.5.2


striyaśca sarvāḥ svāpaya śunaścendrasakhā caran / Ibid. he vāta tvam indrasakhā / indraḥ ātmā / sa sakhā yasya prāṇavāyoḥ tadātmakaḥ caran dehe vartamānaḥ tatra paritovasthitāḥ sarvāḥ striyaśca śunaśca svāpaya / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.


Atharvaveda, 4.5.3


Ibid., 4.5.4


ya āste yaścarati yaśca tiṣṭhan vipaśyati / teṣāṃ saṃ dadhmo akṣīṇi yathedaṃ harmyaṃ tathā // Ibid., 4.5.5


svaptu mātā svaptu pitā … / Ibid., 4.5.6 tasyā mātā prathamaṃ svapitu nidrāparāvaśa bhavatu / tasyā pitā ca svaptu nidrātu / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.


… svaptu śvā svaptu viśpatiḥ / svapantvasyai jñātayaḥ … // Atharvaveda, 4.5.6


he svapna svapnābhimānin deva svapnādhikaraṇena svapnasya yad adhiṣṭānaṃ śayyādi tena sādhanena sarvaṃ janaṃ ni ṣvāpaya nitarāṃ svāpaya / Sāyaṇa, Ibid., 4.5.7


evaṃ sarvajanasya prasvāpane sati ariṣṭaḥ ahiṃsitaḥ akṣitaḥ kṣayarahitaśca san aham indra iva bhogaparo bhūtvā āvyūṣam uṣaḥkālāvadhi jāgṛtāt / Sāyaṇa on Atharvaveda, 4.5.7

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