The AtharvaVeda is a trove of interesting and otherwise under-thought of lore. It has to be due to the nature of its subject-matter – the invoking via allusion of elements to pointed projects and intended outcomes.
Here are two translations of AV VI 38, entitled by Griffith as “A prayer for surpassing strength and energy” – and by Whitney as the rather more prosaic: “For brilliance.”
The reason I am posting this today is that it is once again Masik Durgashtami – where the Blessings of the Mother Goddess are sought.
And, as we can see here : it is precisely that which is Invited here.
The Goddess Who gave birth, indeed, sent out into the world that incredibly, overwhelmingly mighty figure : the God Indra.
We see this general typology expressed elsewhere both in the Vedas as well as in the Indo-European sphere.
I am, of course, thinking first and foremost of RV X 125 5-6 – of the famed DeviSukta, wherein Goddess Vak (this same Goddess, in slightly different perceptive understanding for ritual invocationary purposes) bestows just such Strength, Potency, Power, Might to the Man whom She Chooses. (Not coincidentally, the Bow of Rudra is able to be drawn and fire likewise due to Her Action)
And in the Greek – we find Athena bestowing such, particularly with accompanying Radiance, to Her Chosen : Diomedes and Achilles spring Instantly to mind !
We might also – both because Athena does this (for Achilles), and principally due to the role of Vak Saraswati in the Vedic expression – link this to the production and thence provision of that certain ‘Empowering Elixir’ known variously as Ambrosia or Nectar and Soma to the mortal hero … or, with deference to RV VIII 100, legendary God (Lord Indra once again !);
Something which finds some further parallel expression elsewhere in the Classical legendariums – wherein what renders Hercules a God proper, is the breastmilk of Hera. And a similar blessing is granted by Demeter to Her Chosen, Triptolemos.
Hence, it seemed only apt to accompany this brief commentary with fine art by the sadly deceased Molee, of Aditi nursing the infant Indra.
Now on with the translations!
First, the Griffith –
“A prayer for surpassing strength and energy
1 What energy the lion hath, the tiger, adder, and burning fire,
Brāhman, or Sūrya,
And the blest Goddess Who gave birth to Indra, come unto us
conjoined with strength and vigour!
2 All energy of elephant and panther, all energy of gold, men, kine,
And the blest Goddess Who gave birth to Indra come unto us
conjoined with strength and vigour.
3 Might in car, axles, in the strong bull’s courage, in Varuna’s
breath, in Vāta, in Parjanya,
In Warrior, in the war-drum stretched for battle, in the man’s
roar and in the horse’s mettle,
May the blest Goddess Who gave birth to Indra come unto us
conjoined with strength and vigour.”
And now, the Whitney:
1 What brilliancy (tvíṣi) is in lion, in tiger, and what in adder, in fire, in the Brāhman, what in the sun: the fortunate Goddess that gave birth to Indra — let Her come to us, in union with splendor.
2 What brilliancy is in elephant, in leopard, what in gold, in waters, in kine, what in men (púruṣa): the fortunate Goddess that gave birth to Indra — let Her come to us, in union with splendor.
3 In chariot, in dice, in the bull’s strength (vā́ja), in wind, in rain-god, in Varuṇa’s vehemence (çúṣma): the fortunate Goddess that gave birth to Indra — let Her come to us, in union with splendor.
4 In a noble (rājanyà), in the drum, in the drawn [arrow], in the horse’s vigor, in man’s roar (?): the fortunate Goddess that gave birth to Indra — let Her come to us, in union with splendor.”
Whitney also adds that this Hymnal, in confederation with several others, forms a component for an utsarjana rite – wherein the Sacred Thread is conferred at a commencement of study of the Vedas, or renewed.
Manasataramgini observed that in the first lines of the verses, we find referencing of the Goddess in relation to the large ‘hunting cat’ creatures – Lions, Tigers, Leopards. Something that would strongly comport with, of course, the pan-Indo-European association of the Goddess in question with these as Her Vahana(s) (‘Vehicles’ – ‘Steeds’); and which also accords with the mention found elsewhere in the Vedas for Vak Devi in such a form as, once more, an Enforcer of Righteousness and Propriety.
The various other elements that are spoken of here as the ‘Glories’, or ‘Potencies’ – ‘Siddhis’ might be one way to refer to these – that are called upon … it is likewise the case that for many of these, we can find even offhand quite direct linkages to elements and expressions associated with the Goddess and Her Empowerment (to Bestow), elsewhere in the Vedas.
Indeed, it is intriguing to observe that various of these potencies are ones that are ‘on the surface’ held by male figures (not exclusively, necessarily – we can also find ample occurrences for various of these in female deific hands) … and yet, it should seem, are actually ’empowered’ and ’caused’ by the Goddess.
Exactly that which we behold in the (later transcribed) Shakta theological texts, pertaining for instance to the Slaying of Mahishasura etc. – wherein while it might seem that the Weapons and Radiancy are being given by Gods to the Great Goddess (Durga), a deepa perspicacity shows that these are, once again, competencies and capacities bestowed by Her to Them, and recontributed back to Their Ultimate Source when the need was great for Her to take to the field of war Herself in transcendent and invincible glory.
Part of the reason why this works and makes conceptual theological sense is due to ‘what’ She Is. Cosmic Order – Rta, Orlog – and the in-universe (active) expression / emanation thereof.
Hence, the quality which makes all of these attributes and allusions in the Hymnal verses ‘radiant’, imbues these with their incredible power … is because there is that ‘imprinting’ of the Divine Law within them likewise.
And That, most definitely, is a Paramount Strength (or Splendour), indeed!
Jai Mata DI !