This poll somebody ran on twitter is interesting. Now, I have my own biases, of course, but I’m not sure that the results are especially accurate. For instance, it would take quite a .. selective reading to conclude Vishnu to be the “prime deity” of the RigVeda – that would seem to be a modern sectarian influence back-projecting itself through time.
However, there’s a rather more foundational problem. Two, in fact –
First and foremost – what does “prime deity” mean? Most frequency of mentions – the ‘quantitative’ approach? I don’t think that’s especially useful. Most important? That would be better, yet how do we assess importance. Integrality to rites, scale and scope of contribution?
Personally, I would suggest that in various ways the most important deific of the RigVeda … is Vak Aditi
After all, this is the foundation – the Queen of Law , Cosmic Order ; Speech without which there is no Vedas, the investiture of Furor/Inspiration without which Rsis cannot write.
Similarly, it is only through the Devi’s availment that Indra is able to accomplish His most mighty deeds; it is only through the Devi that the Soma is able to be produced or the Vajra conjured from the Waters.
In the sense that Aditi is Mother of Indra – then quite directly, there would be no Indra without Her ; which is also applicable to Rudra as Dyaus Pitar as Father of Indra, I suppose. [And we can also note with interest the statement that it is Vak Devi Who empowers the Bow of Rudra, likewise]
In the sense that we are able to operationalize the Rites – well, once more, Vak ; and, per Word of Goddess Herself in RV X 125 – it is much more than just ritual which is all, implicitly, contingent upon Her.
Hence what is found in RV X 125 3 –
अहं राष्ट्री संगमनी वसूनां चिकितुषी परथमायज्ञियानाम |
Which, in Griffith translation –
“I am the Queen, the gatherer-up of treasures, most thoughtful, first of those who merit worship.”
Or, in the Jamison/Brereton:
“I am ruler, assembler of goods, observer foremost among those deserving the sacrifice.”
Now, of interest is that the actual words utilized … well, what She ‘gathers’ are the Vasus – ‘radiances’; whilst ‘most thoughtful’ we should probably more aptly render something akin to ‘Understander/Comprehender of the Absolute’ (‘self-knowledge’, in Her most illustrious case, of course).
Prathama Yajniyanam, meanwhile, almost requires no translation – the foremost and leading of the most deserving recipients of the Yajna, our Fire Sacrifice.
I have gone through and put considerable attention on translating some of the other lines of this most magnificent hymnal – as well as various other hymnals of the RigVeda (and other texts) where the Goddess is mentioned. I shall not seek to repeat that work here.
For now, it is enough to know that we have an intriguing millennia-antecedent exemplar of that modern proverb concerning what lies behind every good man.
Or, as She Herself puts it –
अहं मित्रावरुणोभा बिभर्म्यहमिन्द्राग्नीहमश्विनोभा
अहं सोममाहनसं बिभर्म्यहं तवष्टारमुतपूषणं भगम
A list of Gods that are Supported and Empowered by Her. And, indeed, Who correspondingly Empower Others Themselves in fairly direct consequence.
It might be suggested to be a bit lamentably typical that Devi Vak should be left off a poll such as this – in favour of several male deifics Whose mightiest deeds for which They are deservedly renowned are only accomplished through Her agency …
… but I somehow suspect that She is still ‘getting on with the job’ regardless, whatever others may say (or not).
After all, as we know from the later and more expansive Hindu theological canon – it is only She, only Devi Who is not weakened via the loss of sacral conduct when this is wiped out and suppressed by a rather imaginative demonic war effort. And therefore, to Her that the entire rest of the Pantheon must turn – and receive Their entreaties to come and deliver both them and us from a fate most malefic indeed.
So, whether hailed as ‘prime deity’ in a twitter poll or not – not only is it abundantly clear that Her Primacy in the actual Veda is paramount, but that Her Primacy in the actual reality is so likewise.
Jai Mata Di !