Women in the Atharva-veda Samhita

by Pranab Jyoti Kalita | 2017 | 62,142 words

This page relates ‘Goddessess Sinivali, Kuhu, Anumati and Raka’ 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.

21. Goddessess Sinīvālī, Kuhū, Anumati and Rākā

In the Vedic pantheon, there are four such deities, viz. Sinīvālī, Kuhū, Anumati and Rākā, who are connected with the moon. These deities represent four different lunar days. Sinīvālī, in sight of the Vedic seers, is the deity who presides over the day that precedes new moon day, while Kuhū is known as the presiding deity of the new moon day.[1] Anumati is, again, the deity who presides over the preceding day of the full moon day and Rākā is the presiding deity of the full moon day.[2]

Thus, Sinīvālī is the goddess of the 14th day of the dark half of a lunar month. Sāyaṇācārya[3] refers to Sinīvālī as the presiding deity of that new moon day till when the moon remains visible. Yāska[4] enumerates her amongst the deities, belonging to the mid-sphere. He refers to the views of certain etymologists, who recognise her as the wife of the gods.[5] Again, according to the ritualists, as referred to by Yāska, Sinīvālī is the goddess of the day on which the moon becomes invisible.[6] According to Yāska,[7] the word Sinīvālī is formed with two different components, viz. sina and vāla. Sina means food that makes the living beings strong, and vāla means a particular period, and the term is derived from the root vṛ, which means to cover. Thus, the word seems to mean ‘rich in food on a particular period.’[8] Or it may be so called because the moon becomes so minute during this period that it seems as if it is vāla.[9] The meaning of the term vāla is differently understood by the scholars. Some[10] interpret it as child while some[11] as hair. Nevertheless, it is to be observed in the character and functions of Sinīvālī as revealed in the text.

The Atharvaveda gives a beautiful picture of Sinīvālī. She is called subāhu,[12] i.e. having beautiful arms; svaṅguriḥ,[13] i.e. having nice fingers; suṣumā,[14] i.e. wellbearing and pṛthuṣṭukā,[15] i.e. broad-hipped. The Taittirīya Saṃhitā,[16] adding to her beauty states that she is crowned with a long tuft of hair and an attractive hairstyle decks her knotted hair. The Atharvaveda too refers to her as sahasrastukā,[17] i.e. having thousands of hair.

In the Atharvaveda, Sinīvālī is observed as connected with procreation. She is called bahusūvarī,[18] i.e. the progenitrix of all people. She is asked to accept the oblation, offered to her and to grant progeny to the invokers.[19] Along with Sarasvatī, she is prayed to let a woman to give birth to or to procreate offspring, being favoured by Bhaga.[20] Again, she is implored along with Prajāpati and Anumati to ensure the birth of a male child placing the female one anywhere else.[21] Sinīvālī, Sarasvatī and the Aśvins are asked together in the Ṛgveda[22] as well as in the Atharvaveda[23] too, to place the embryo into the womb of a woman. She is also regarded as the protector of the people.[24]

Sinīvālī is called the sister of the gods.[25] She is also called the wife of Viṣṇu,[26] who is interpreted by Sāyaṇācārya as Indra.[27] She is eulogised to send forth Indra, her husband to bestow riches upon the laudators.[28] For the welfare of the cows and for the prosperity with grains, she is extolled along with Sarasvatī and Udumbara Maṇi.[29] Her connection with cattle is observed once more where the intestines of a bull are spoken of as belonging to Sinīvālī.[30]

Thus, in the above discussion, it is observed that Sinīvālī is the goddess, who is mainly connected with generation.

Kuhū is another goddess related to the dark half of a lunar month. She is regarded as the presiding deity of amāvāsyā, i.e. the new moon day when the moon becomes totally invisible.[31] Yāska has given some varied etymologies of Kuhū. According to him, Kuhū is derived from the root guh, i.e. to conceal.[32] Or, she may be so called because of the queries ‘where has she been?’, ‘Or, where is she extolled?’, ‘Or, at what place does she sacrifice the offered oblation?’[33] As observed by Kane,[34]

Kuhū may be formed from the word kuha, which means ‘where’ as paraphrased by Sāyaṇācārya.[35] As per his observation, the new moon day may be so called because on that day, people naturally may want to know where the moon goes.

In the Atharvaveda,[36] Kuhū is called amṛtasya patnī. Sāyaṇācārya has given a three-fold interpretation of the term. Firstly, as the sustainer of water,[37] secondly, as the wife of the god, who is eternal among the gods[38] and thirdly, as the sustainer of all beings.[39] She is called havyā,[40] i.e. worthy to be called and hence, is urged to respond her worshippers.[41] She is regarded as of noble actions[42] and invocations.[43] She knows her work in the sacrifice.[44] Such type of Kuhū is implored to bestow abundance of wealth and heroic sons.[45]

Like the new moon day, the full moon day also is associated with one female deity, viz. Rākā. The name Rākā, as pointed out by Yāska[46] is derived from the root , i.e. to give, i.e. who bestows wealth to the worshippers. She is also invoked for the bestowal of plenty of wealth.[47] Sāyaṇācārya[48] also interpretes Rākā as the full moon day when the moon appears completely.

She is called suhavā,[49] i.e. fit to be called and subhagā,[50] i.e. a knowledgeable one. Sumanā,[51] i.e. having a noble mind, is her another epithet. Rākā is asked to sew the work of procreation with unbreakable niddle.[52] The Aitareyabrāhmaṇa[53] knows her as dwelling on the male generative organ, where she sews the semen in the womb so as to form a male child. Due to her connection with generation, she is beseeched to grant heroic sons.[54]

The deity who presides over the day that comes prior to the full moon day is Anumati.[55] The word Anumati literally means approbation and the deity is so called on account of approving according to Yāska.[56]

Unlike the other lunar deities, viz. Sinīvālī, Kuhū and Rākā, she is closely connected with sacrifice. As indicated by her very name, her approval is desired for the fulfilment of a sacrifice.[57] She is conjured to ratify the sacrifice among the gods.[58] She is called to the sacrifice to protect the same and to grant wealth in the form of land and heroic sons to the sacrificer.[59] She is asked to enjoy the oblation offered to her.[60] Moreover, for the confirmation of whatever is granted by Indra, Agni, Maruts and all the gods to the worshippers, Anumati is lauded along with Prajāpati and Savitṛ.[61] As she gives according to one’s wishes, she is called sudānu.[62] She is viśvavārā,[63] i.e. worthy to all and also subhagā,[64] i.e. fortunate. She is referred to as devapatnī, i.e. wife of the gods by Yāska[65] as well as by Sāyaṇācārya.[66] Besides, her being the wife of the gods, she is devagopā,[67] i.e. protector of the gods also.

The sacrificers, due to their reverence to Anumati want themselves to be favoured by her[68] and never want to be the subject of her wrath.[69] Anumati also, consequently, assures them not to be feared.[70]

In the Atharvaveda, Anumati is lauded for the bestowal of offspring.[71] It is stated that the act of shaping the foetus with the limbs like hands, feet, etc., is known to Prajāpati, Anumati and Sinīvālī and hence, they are invoked to shape the foetus as a male one and to place the female one anywhere else.[72]

Anumati is also asked to remove the evil marks from one’s body.[73] Amongst all the female deities, she is only asked to do so, which is also explained by Sāyaṇācārya, and thus, it is for the reason that the gods like Indra, etc. assign her for the welfare of the worshippers.[74]

To overcome the love of a woman, Anumati and Ākuti are jointly prayed to send forth kāma, i.e. love near to that desired woman so that she may be pierced.[75]

In one context of the Atharvaveda,[76] she has been elevated to the status of a Supreme deity, who dwells in entire creation, viz. whatever stands like the plants; whatever moves like the insects, etc., and whatever is associated with intelligence like human beings, animals, etc.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

yā pūrvāmāvāsyā sā sinīvālī / yottarā sā kuhūḥ / Aitareya-brāhmaṇa, 7.11; Kāṭhapa-saṃhitā., 12.8; Ṣaḍviṃśa-brāhmaṇa, 5.6.4

[2]:

pūrvā pūrṇamāsī sānumatiḥ / yottarā sā rākā / Aitareya-brāhmaṇa, 7.11; Kāṭhapa-saṃhitā., 12.8; Ṣaḍviṃśa-brāhmaṇa, 5.6.4

[3]:

dṛṣṭendukalāmāvāsyādevatā / Sāyaṇa on Atharvaveda, 2.26.2 dṛṣṭacandrāmāvāsyābhimānidevatā sinīvālī / Sāyaṇa on Atharvaveda, 19.31.10

[4]:

Nirukta, 11.22-32

[5]:

sinīvālī kuhūriti devapatnyāviti nairuktāḥ / Ibid., 11.31

[6]:

amāvāsye iti yājñikāḥ / Ibid.

[7]:

Ibid.

[8]:

sinīvālī sinamannaṃ bhavati / sināti bhūtāni / vālaṃ parvaṃ vṛṇoteḥ / tasminnannavatī / Ibid.

[9]:

vālinī vā / vālenevāsyāmaṇutvāccandramāḥ sevitavyo bhavatīti vā / Ibid.

[10]:

Vide, Lal, S. Kāṭhapa-saṃhitā, Op.cit., p.212, fn.2

[11]:

Vide, Sarup, L. (ed. & trans.), The Nirukta and the Nighaṇṭu, Part I, p.179, on Nirukta, 11.31

[12]:

Atharvaveda, 7.48.2 subāhuḥ supāṇiḥ / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[13]:

Atharvaveda, 7.48.2 svaṅguriḥ śobhanāṅguliḥ / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[14]:

Atharvaveda, 7.48.2 suṣumā suyoniḥ / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[15]:

Atharvaveda, 7.48.1 pṛthuṣṭuke pṛthujaghane / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[16]:

sukapardā sukurīrā svaupaśā / Taittirīya-saṃhitā, 4.1.5.3

[17]:

Atharvaveda, 7.48.3 sahasrastukā / sahasraśabdo bahuvācī / bahukeśastukā / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[18]:

Atharvaveda, 7.48.2 bahusūvarī bahvīnāṃ prajānāṃ savitrī / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[19]:

juṣasva havyamāhutaṃ prajāṃ devi didiḍḍhi naḥ / Atharvaveda, 7.48.1

[20]:

Ibid., 14.2.15, 21

[21]:

Ibid., 6.11.3

[22]:

Ṛgveda, 10.184.2

[23]:

Atharvaveda, 5.25.3

[24]:

yā viśpatnīndramasi … / Ibid., 7.48.3 yā sinīvālī viśpatnī viśāṃ pālayitrī / Sāyaṇa, Ibid. Also vide, Atharvaveda, 7.48.2

[25]:

… yā devānāmasi svasā / Atharvaveda, 7.48.1

[26]:

viṣṇoḥ patnī … / Ibid., 7.48.3

[27]:

viṣṇoḥ vyāpanaśīlasya devasya indrasya vā patni / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[28]:

patiṃ devi rādhase codayasva / Atharvaveda, 7.48.3

[29]:

ā me dhanaṃ sarasvatī payasphātiṃ ca dhānyam / sinīvālyupā vahādaya caudumbaro maṇiḥ // Ibid., 19.31.10

[30]:

Ibid., 9.4.14

[31]:

naṣṭacandrā kuhūrmatāḥ iti śruteḥ / Sāyaṇa, Ibid., 19.31.10 naṣṭacandrā amāvāsyā kuhūḥ / Sāyaṇa on Atharvaveda, 19.49.1

[32]:

kuhūrgūhateḥ / Nirukta, 11.32

[33]:

kvābhūditi vā / kva satī hūtaya iti vā / kvāhutaṃ havirjuhotīti vā / Ibid.

[34]:

Vide, Kane, P. V., History of Dharmaśāstra, Vol. II, part-I, p.62

[35]:

Vide, Sāyaṇa on Ṛgveda, 10.40.2

[36]:

kuhūrdevānāmamṛtasya patnī … / Atharvaveda, 7.49.2

[37]:

amṛtasya amṛtatvasya avināśasya udakasya vā patnī pālayitrī / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[38]:

yadvā devānāṃ madhye yaḥ amṛtaḥ avinaśvaro devatasya patnī nārī / Sāyaṇa on Atharvaveda, 7.49.2

[39]:

athavā devānāmiti sarvavikāropalakṣaṇam / sarveṣāṃ bhūtānām amṛtasya ca patnī pālayitrī / Sāyaṇa on Atharvaveda, 7.49.2

[40]:

Atharvaveda, 7.49.2 havyā āhvānārhā / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[41]:

… no asya haviṣo juṣeta / Atharvaveda, 7.49.2

[42]:

sukṛtaṃ … / Ibid., 7.49.1 sukṛtam sukarmāṇaṃ / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[43]:

… suhavā … / Atharvaveda, 7.49.1 śobhanāhvanām / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[44]:

… vidmanāpasam … / Atharvaveda, 7.49.1 apa iti karmanāma / viditakarmāṇam / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[45]:

Atharvaveda, 7.49.1, 2

[46]:

rākā rāterdānakarmaṇaḥ / Nirukta, 11.30

[47]:

… sahasrāpoṣaṃ subhage rarāṇā / Ibid., 7.50.2

[48]:

saṃpūrṇacandrā paurṇamāsī rākā / Sāyaṇa on Atharvaveda, 7.50.1

[49]:

Atharvaveda, 7.50.1 suhavām śobhanāhvanām / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[50]:

Atharvaveda, 7.50.1 subhagā sujñānādikā / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[51]:

Atharvaveda, 7.50.2

[52]:

sīvyatvapaḥ sūcyācchidyamānayā dadātu vīraṃ śatadāyamukthyam / Ibid., 7.50.1

[53]:

rākā ha vā etāṃ puruṣasya sevanīṃ sīvyati yaiṣā śiśnedhi / pumāṃsosya putrā jāyante / Aitareya-brāhmaṇa, 3.37

[54]:

… dadātu vīraṃ śatadāyamukthyam / Atharvaveda, 7.50.1

[55]:

pūrvapaurṇamāsyābhimānidevate / Sāyaṇa, Ibid., 2.26.2 kalāhīne sānumatiḥ pūrṇe rākā nīśākare / Sāyaṇa on Atharvaveda, 7.21.1

[56]:

anumatiranumananāt / Nirukta, 11.30

[57]:

yat te nāma suhavaṃ supraṇītenumate anumataṃ sudānu / tenā no yajñaṃ pipṛhi viśvavāre rayiṃ no dhehi subhage suvīrama // Atharvaveda, 7.21.4

[58]:

anvadya nonumatiryajñaṃ deveṣu manyatām / Ibid., 7.21.1

[59]:

emaṃ yajñamanumatirjagāma sukṣetrāyai suvīratāyai sujātam / bhadrā hyasyāḥ pramatirbabhūva semaṃ yajñamavatu devagopā // Ibid., 7.21.5

[60]:

Ibid., 7.21.2

[61]:

Ibid., 7.25.1

[62]:

Ibid., 7.21.4

[63]:

Ibid.

[64]:

Ibid.

[65]:

anumati rāketi devapatnyāviti nairuktāḥ / Nirukta, 11.30

[66]:

Sāyaṇa on Atharvaveda, 2.26.2; 6.131.2

[67]:

Atharvaveda, 7.21.5

[68]:

Ibid., 7.21.3, 6

[69]:

Ibid., 7.21.3

[70]:

nirasmabhyam anumatī rarāṇā … / Ibid., 1.18.2 anumatiḥ sarveṣām anumantrī devatā asmabhyam asmadarthaṃ rarāṇā mā bhaiṣīriti śabdāyamānā / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[71]:

Atharvaveda, 7.21.2-5

[72]:

Ibid., 6.11.3

[73]:

Ibid., 1.18.2

[74]:

satīṣvapi anyāsu devatāsu asyā eva prārthanāyāṃ hetum āha premām iti / devāḥ indrādayaḥ imām uktām anumatiṃ saubhagāya saubhāgyāya asmākaṃ saubhāgyaṃ dātuṃ prāsāviṣuḥ preritavantaḥ / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

[75]:

Atharvaveda, 6.131.2

[76]:

anumatiḥ sarvamidaṃ babhūva yat tiṣṭhati carati yadu viśvamejati / Ibid., 7.21.6

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