It is SUNDAY – The Day of the Sun ! And so therefore, we present a rather lesser-known ‘Saura’ [‘Solar’] figure: Revanta, the Huntsman Son of Surya [Sun] – and, fittingly, accompanied by a further Hindu reflex of the Indo-European ‘Wild Hunt’ ! And we shall look at Them once again in due course – yet first, it seems only appropriate to introduce Their Lord.
Now Revanta is a fascinating figure to me for a number of reasons. But one which often gets commented upon is His #GangSteppe saliency. This can be seen here – where Revanta is depicted wearing ostensibly ‘Central Asian’ style riding boots. Manasataramgini has pointed out that this style of depiction tends to be concentrated in the NorthWest prior to about a millennium ago.
He is seen here, upon horseback and hunting a boar, in a fine depiction from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan from about 1625. The imagery which surrounds Him here is intended, likely, to connote what prevails where Revanta is worshipped.
For example – the Cow being milked and the Horse which are to the left and right respectively of the God, stand for particular kinds of animal-wealth (the latter more relevant for a King – as, indeed, Revanta was often specifically worshipped by). Ganesha for the ‘Removal of Obstacles’ and dangers (with a Mouse that is His Vahana running up to meet Him, immediately below); and on the other side, a couple in love (the ultimate hunt, indeed).
But let us start at the beginning. Revanta’s origin-mythology is as one of the progeny conceived by Surya & Sanjana (Saranyu) when They were in horse form, following the bolting escape of the latter when She could no longer bear the searing radiancy of the former.
Taking a ‘step back’, we can see that it is the Sky Father in pursuit of His Wife. ‘Hunting’, we may suggest, in Animal Shape – and with certain of the essential qualities of those forms.
As we have covered elsewhere at some length, this particular myth is evidently of quite archaic Indo-European saliency – as it shows up at least twice in Greek mythology: Poseidon in pursuit of Demeter Erinyes (again, in horse form); and Zeus in pursuit of Nemesis et co (in this case, swan form).
Which results in a particular suite of progeny including the Hero/Horse Twins (The Asvins / Nasatyas / Divo Napata in Hindu terms, the Dioscuri – Castor & Pollux (Polydeuces) – in Greek and Roman terms, and Hengist & Horsa in the Nordic / Germanic sphere, etc.), and a certain Beautiful Solar Princess (Helen of Troy, Tapati).
One of these progeny, per the Hindu understanding, is this figure of Revanta.
The Puranic presentation of the mythology depicts Revanta as springing forth almost immediately from the womb, fully equipped and arrayed for war.
This is then followed by Revanta carrying out acts of conquest across the worlds, unable to find any serious challenge to His immense might. Finally, a deputation of Devas approaches Lord Shiva to ask Him to ‘rein in’ the Imperial Sun.
As the Skanda Purana puts it, the plea of these Devas is as follows:
“O Maheśvara, the entire area of the three worlds has been burnt by Revanta, the Son of Āditya, through the fire issuing forth from His body, the refulgence of His great exploit and vigour. O most excellent one among the Devas, He is unmanageable even if We all fight collectively. O Śaṅkara, You alone are competent (to restrain him), no one else. We resort to You; all of Us are distressed due to fear; We seek refuge. O Maheśvara, You are the Lord and refuge of the Devas, the bestower of boons.”
Shiva then summons forth the young Revanta to Him, and hails Him as a beloved Son; granting Revanta a Boon and a station to be situated at of great honour. This is both a (meta-)physical / cosmological location anchored to that great Starlight Pillar of Shiva – the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga at Ujjain , as well as a position … that being the Lord of the Guhyakas, here a role bestowed to Revanta by Shiva.
I mention this because in other sources, it is Surya Who gives His Son such a position.
For example, per the Markandeya Purana, these words are attributed to the Sun God:
“And Revanta was appointed to the lordship over the Guhyakas; and even thus spoke the adorable God then Who is acknowledged by the world,—“Thou shalt indeed be worthy of worship by the entire world, My Child; and mortals, who shall call Thee to mind amid the terrors of forests and other lonely places, of great conflagrations, of enemies and robbers, shall be delivered out of great calamity. Comfort, intelligence, happiness, kingship, perfect health, fame, exalted position— these, when worshipped and well-satisfied, Thou shalt bestow on men.” “
Clearly, as we can see, the ‘double-up’ in the mythology is communicating an archaic, underlying ‘unity’. Something which we have, again, discussed capaciously elsewhere viz. Surya in various occurrences as an expression of the Sky Father deific – just as is, of course, Lord Rudra. Himself, as it should happen, a Huntsman beyond compare !
But who are these Guhyakas? Well, as I had said earlier, it should appear that the Guhyakas constitute a further Hindu expression of the Indo-European ‘Wild Hunt’. The ‘attendants’ or ‘retinue’ described per the Brhat Samhita etc. as accompanying Their Lord in His hunting pursuits.
Guhyaka itself, from ‘Guha’ (‘Hidden’ or ‘Secret’ or ‘Obscured’ – interestingly, and perhaps entirely uncoincidentally, utilized as a term for the young Skanda / Kartikeya) is usually translated as ‘Hidden One’. These beings are variously described as Ghosts (particularly of Soldiers), classes of Yaksha (interestingly, Yaksha-Rakshasas), and in amidst the Retinues of Rudra.
To quote from the Mahabharat:
“These and other Kings, O Son of Pandu, who had warred on thy side now walk with the Gandharvas or Yakshas or other sacred beings. Some have attained to the status of Guhyakas, O King. Having cast off their bodies, they have conquered Heaven by the merit they had acquired through word, thought, and deed.”
Of course, the presentation of the Guyhakas in the mythology is not exactly uniform – and some renditions have decidedly less ‘positive’ connotations for the clade. But we shall not get into that here, except to note that the less positive understandings seem to connote demonic forces which invidiously strike without being able to be seen.
Further contextual attestation for ‘Guhyas’ in linkage to Rudra can be found in the Devi Purana:
“The many clouds, stars, and planets moved from their locations. Delighted by the sight of Her, the sky-dwellers released garlands of flowers by the thousands. Beginning to dance, everyone obtained utmost joy. The shining rays frolicked by various kinds of amusements along with the troops of Rudras, yoginīs, ghosts, Rākṣasas, and Guhyas. They came before Rudra and honored
Now, it is other texts and iconographic renditions which make clearer the ‘Hunt’ element to Revanta (particularly His associate Mrigaya – literally ‘Hunter’ or ‘Huntress’) and His Guhyakas, so we shall not delve too deeply into this here ; yet it should seem eminently appropriate that we find such a figure within the Puranic mythology.
Not ‘new’, not ‘novel’ – but carrying forward an archaic Indo-European understanding found pervasively across the IE sphere.
We hope that He, the Son of the Sun Who Is The Great Hunter, may avail us in our efforts, campaign, chase and quest this year !