There is much misinformation and misapprehension about Dyaus Pitar (also known as Dyeus Phter if we are going with the PIE reconstruction) – none more so, in my estimation than that He is somehow a ‘remote’ or ‘inactive’ deity Who plays no real functional role in our still-living mythology. In line with which, you will often hear Dyaus Pitar presented as being what’s known as a “Deus Otiosus”; a figure largely almost irrelevant, unremembered, unheeded and unheralded except in the occasional dim but brief citations of the most archaic scripture.
Now as applies the Greek and Roman understandings of Him, this is almost self-evidently incorrect. Zeus Pater and Jupiter are many things, but shrouded and removed from the world are not one of them. Indeed, even where the ‘shrouded’ is occurrent – as with Zeus’ testing of the Xenia custom of sacred hospitality … or the testing in a rather different manner of various mortal women – it would be entirely inappropriate to claim that this renders Him to be ‘inactive’ or merely vaguely remembered, mostly unthought of. So clearly it is not the Greco-Roman ‘Classical’ mythology that has informed this view.
Rather, it is the spurious misreading of the Vedic Hindu scriptures which has lead people to this most erroneous of conclusions. You see, within our own canon we have the figure of Dyaus Pitar – and for the most part, He is indeed rarely spoken of as Dyaus ; most direct mentions taking place either in the context of having Sired Lord Indra , or in brief citations alongside Prithvi – that is to say Earth (as in Mother Earth). And so various scholars have drawn the obvious conclusion – that there was once a Dyaus Pitar, yet Who faded from view, from prominence; with His role being largely supplanted by Indra or somesuch; functionally having ‘fallen away’ and only to be invoked (still much less actively recalled) when Indra or some other, younger figure was being hailed. Which is just downright curious.
Because it is not at all what the Vedas actually say upon the subject. Where Dyaus is, indeed, prominently and repeatedly spoken of – as the Great Lord of All Existence, still veer-y much active and actively engaged, with a number of hymnals dedicated unto Him.
So why is it that we find virtually the diametrically opposite view presented so frequently within the realms of academic and amateur writing upon the subject?
To put it simply … because many people don’t grasp how our theology works; and it almost seems that this is an intentional failure, in various of those occasions wherein somebody’s personal theory would be imperilled via the truth. The difficulty of interpreting Vedic texts when making sole use of an English translation is also a relevant factor.
So with that in mind – let’s take a brief look at some of the mentions for Dyaus Pitar in the Vedas, and see just how it is that so many have managed to get it so wrong for all these years.
We shall begin via a simple example for the linguistic side of things – and then work our way up to the more resonant theological material.
To start with, we have Griffith’s translation of RV II 1 6:
“6 Rudra art thou, the Asura of mighty heaven: ” – which, in the original, is “tvam aghne rudro asuro maho divas” ; or, phrased another way, we have Agni identified with Rudra, the Heavenly Sire [it is important to note that this is ‘Asura’ in the older sense – meaning ‘Sire’ / ‘Powerful’, inter alia; not ‘A’Sura’, the latter term for an ‘Anti-Shining’ Demon]
And straightaway, you begin to see the problem. Divas is a form of the same noun that is Dyaus – the genitive form, to be specific. Except if you are just going off a translation, or you aren’t familiar with the Sanskrit grammar in question, you could easily overlook this. And to be fair, the reading of this as Rudra being the Asura of Heaven (place/plane) is not inaccurate. The ‘Heavenly Father’ and the ‘Father Who Art In Heaven’ ; the Sky Father and the Father In (or Of) The Sky ; these are not, here, mutually exclusive understandings. Quite the contrary. The Asuro Maho Divas in question is that great generative power of the Bright Sky – known as Rudra.
But let’ take a look at a more direct example:
Griffith’s translation of RV I 129 3 – “Indra, to thee I sing, to Dyaus, to Rudra glorious in himself,” which, in the original is “indrota tubhyaṃ tad dive tad rudrāya svayaśase”.
Now, some may choose to interpret this as there being three deities hailed here. But this is not the case (dative, in case you were wondering). Rather, it is a situation wherein the number of deities is two – Indra and His Father. The Father being hailed by (in this line at least) two prominent theonyms for the same God – Rudra and Dyaus.
How do we know this? Because it happens elsewhere in the Vedas as well – RV VIII 20 17 [Griffith Translation]: “17 Even as Rudra’s Sons, the brood of the Creator Dyaus, the Asura, desire, / O Youthful Ones, so shall it be:” – which, in the original reads “yathā rudrasya sūnavo divo vaśantyasurasya vedhasaḥ / yuvānastathedasat ” .
Now, it is clearly not the case that there are two Fathers here … instead, it is one Father hailed by, again, two names.
And, to further strengthen this most interesting point … the Sons, the ‘Brood’ being referred to here – are the Asvins. Otherwise known as the Divo Napata or Divah Kumarau – the Sons of Dyaus … or, in Greek, the Dioscouri – the Sons of Zeus. And it should also be noted that the hailing of the Horse-Twins as the Sons of Rudra is exactly what we should expect – given the Germanic tradition’s emphasis upon Hengist and Horsa as being the Descendants of Odin [although it should be noted that the major source material attesting these figures is … rather removed from the Germanic tradition itself, and euhemerizes or otherwise distorts matters, as we explored in the previous article upon the subject. Hence why Hengist and Horsa are presented as descendants of Odin (here reduced in status to a human tribal chief) rather than as direct Sons).
There are other strings we could add to this bow, of course – and in the span of my previous work, I have repeatedly addressed the iconographic and theological evidence for Rudra as Indo-European Sky Father, Odin as Indo-European Sky Father, etc. But where some might have criticized those previous efforts for being works of interpretation … as we can see from the above aforementioned, it is simply necessary to read what the Vedas Themselves are actually saying upon the matter.
That Rudra is Dyaus Pitar , the Sky Father of the Indo-Europeans. With not only the extensive array of mythic, theological points of correspondency with the Sky Father figure as found in other Indo-European mythic perspectives – but also the linguistic attestational supports for this right in the Vedas.
As RV VI 49 10 puts it:
“Rudra by day, Rudra at night we honour with these our songs, the Universe’s Father.
Him great and lofty, blissful, undecaying let us call specially as the Sage impels us.”
So the next time somebody attempts to proclaim that we no longer worship Dyaus Pitar , or that Dyaus Pitar is some sort of ‘Deus Otiosus’ – these claims can be safely disregarded. It is self-evident, now, that such contentions are manifestly in error. Rudra , known more prominently by His additional theonym Shiva these days , is one of our most prominent Gods. And is most certainly not a figure Who can be adequately described as “idle”, “inactive”, or – perish the thought ! – “irrelevant”. Quite the opposite !
Even if He does retreat up into the highest peaks of the Himalayas to meditate and smoke cannabis, from time to time.
As a further point of interest – what we have demonstrated here helps to once again attest that despite what you may have heard: the modern Hinduism has actively carried forward vitally important important fundaments of our belief from not only its Vedic era earlier expression … but also from the Proto-Indo-European mythology and religion itself.
Just as the Sky Father Intended !