Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": A VEDIC HYMN TO THE GODDESS EARTH


('Atharva-Veda,' XII, I, selections)

1. Truth, greatness, universal order (rita), strength, consecration, creative fervour (tapas) spiritual exaltation (Brahman), the sacrifice,

support the earth. May this earth, the mistress of that which was and shall be, prepare for us a broad domain!

2. The earth that has heights, and slopes, and great plains, that supports the plants of manifold virtue, free from the pressure that comes from the midst of men, she shall spread out for us, and fit herself for us!

3. The earth upon which the sea, and the rivers and the waters, upon which food and the tribes of men have arisen, upon which this breathing, moving life exists, shall afford us precedence in drinking

4. The earth whose are the four regions of space upon which food and the tribes of men have arisen, which supports the manifold breathing, moving things, shall afford us cattle and other possessions also!

5. The earth upon which of old the first men 1 unfolded themselves, upon which the gods overcame the Asuras 2 shall procure for us (all) kinds of cattle, horses, and fowls, good fortune, and glory !

6. The earth that supports all, furnishes wealth, the foundation, the golden breasted resting- place of all living creatures, she that supports Agni Vaishvanara 3 , and mates with Indra, the bull 4 shall furnish-us with property!

7. The broad earth, which the sleepless gods ever attentively guard, shall milk for us precious honey, and, moreover, besprinkle us with glory!

8. That earth which formerly was water upon the ocean (of space), which the wise (seers) found out by their skillful devices 5 , whose heart is in the highest heaven, immortal, surrounded by truth, shall bestow upon us brilliancy and strength, (and place us) in supreme sovereignty !

10. The earth which the Ashvins 6 have measured, upon which Vishnu 7 has stepped out, which Indra, the lord of might, has made friendly to himself; she, the mother, shall pour forth milk for me, the son !

11. Thy snowy mountain heights, and thy forests, 0 earth, shall be kind to us! The brown, the black, the red, the multi-colored, the firm earth, that is protected by Indra, I have settled upon, not suppressed, not slain, not wounded.

12. Into thy middle set us, 0 earth, and into thy navel, into the nourishing strength that has grown up from thy body; purify thyself for us ! The earth is the mother, and I the son of the earth: Parjanya 8 is the father; he, too, shall save us!

13. The earth upon which they (the priests) inclose the altar (vedi), upon which they, devoted to all (holy) works, unfold the sacrifice, upon which are set up, in front of the sacrifice, the sacrificial posts, erect and brilliant, that earth shall prosper us, herself prospering!

14. Him that hates us, 0 earth, him that battles against us, him that is hostile towards us with his mind and his weapons, do thou subject to us, anticipating (our wish) by deed !

15. The mortals born of thee live on thee, thou supportest both bipeds and quadrupeds. Thine, 0 earth, are these five races of men, the mortals, upon whom the rising sun sheds undying light with his rays. . . .

22. Upon the earth men give to the gods the sacrifice, the prepared oblation: upon the earth mortal men live pleasantly by food. May this earth give us breath and life, may she cause me to reach old age!

23. The fragrance, 0 earth, that has arisen upon thee, which the plants and the waters hold, which the Gandharvas and the Apsaras 9 have partaken of, with that make me fragrant: not any one shall hate us! . . .

40. May this earth point out to us the wealth that we crave: may Bhaga (fortune) add his help, may Indra come here as (our) champion!

41. The earth upon whom the noisy mortals sing and dance, upon whom they fight, upon whom resounds the roaring drum, shall drive forth our enemies, shall make us free from rivals!

42. To the earth upon whom are food, and rice and barley, upon whom live these five races of men, to the earth, the wife of Parjanya, that is fattened by rain, be reverence !

43. The earth upon whose ground the citadels constructed by the gods unfold themselves, every region of her that is the womb of all, Prajapati 10 shall make pleasant for us ! .

45. The earth that holds people of manifold varied speech, of different customs, according to their habitations, as a reliable milchcow that does not kick, shall she milk for me a thousand streams of wealth!

46. The serpent, the scorpion with' thirsty fangs, that hibernating torpidly lies upon thee; the worm, and whatever living thing, 0 earth, moves in the rainy season, shall, when it creeps not creep upon us; with what is auspicious (on thee) be gracious to us! . . .

48. The earth holds the fool and holds the wise, endures that good and bad dwell (upon her), she keeps company with the boar, gives herself up to the wild hog. . . .

52. The earth upon whom day and night jointly, black and bright, have been decreed, the broad earth covered and enveloped with rain, shall kindly place us into every pleasant abode!

53. Heaven, and earth, and air have here given me expanse: Agni, Surya 11 I the waters, and all the gods together have given me wisdom. . . .

63. 0 mother earth, kindly set me down upon a well-founded place! With (father) heaven cooperating, 0 thou wise one, do thou place me into happiness and prosperity ! 12


Notes

1 Purvajana, 'men of former times.'

2 By the time of the composition of the Atharvaveda, as in the late Rigveda, the asuras, sovereign gods under Varuna's command, have become demons;the dievas were the gods who 'overcame' them.

3 Vaishvanara, 'belonging to all men,' is a frequent epithet of Agni, the fire,and refers to his omnipresence.

4 Indra's fecund powers are often characterized by his bull form: here, 'the earth (bhumi) whose bull is Indra.

5.' Maya'.

6 The divine twins, beautiful and amiable physicians among the gods, whose golden chariot traverses heaven and earth in a day.

7 Vishnu, still a minor god in the Atharvaveda, is celebrated for his three great strides: already the first of these covered the broad span of earth, the second then limited the sky, and the third encompassed transcendent space.

8 A lesser deity associated with the rain clouds and terrestrial fertility. Verse 42 calls earth his wife.

9 The Gandharvas are a class of celestial beings sometimes described as dwelling with their Apsaras nymphs in the waters on earth. [See below, selection no. 116, the story of Pururavas, Urvashi and the lotus lake. M.E.] Lord of creatures and protector of generation.

10 Lord of creatures and protector of generation

11 The sun.

12 Vaitana-sutra 27.8 prescribes this verse for recitation upon descending from the sacrificial post (W. D. Whitney [trans-], Atharva-Veda Samhita [ed. by C. R. Lanman], Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1905, P. 67i). The hymn itself is one of the few examples of freshly inspired poetry in the Atharvaveda. 'Its chief use is at the agrahayani-ceremonies, the concluding ceremonies of the rites devoted to serpents, undertaken on the full-moon day of the month Margashirsha.' It is also connected with rites that firmly establish the house, homestead, or village. (Bloomfield, pp. 639-40.)


Translation by Maurice Bloomfield, Hymns of theAtharva-Veda, in The Sacred Books of the he East, XLII(Oxford, 1891), PP. 199-207

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