The beginnings of revatI: The vaidika elements

pathyA revatIr bahudhA virUpAH sarvAH sa~Ngatya varivas te akran |
tAs tvA sarvAH saMvidAnA hvayantu dashamIm ugraH sumanA vasheha ||
AV 6.4.7; AV-P 3.1.7
The revatI-s of the path of several diverse forms, have all assembled and made extensive wealth for you;
Let them all in agreement call you, reside here with good mind and strength to the tenth decade of life.

svasti pathye revati | RV5.51.14b
May revatI of the path confer safety on us.

In the kAshyapa saMhitA/tantra we see revatI emerging as a major goddess associated with skanda and with several distinctive features. This raises the question of her earlier evolution – was she from a “para-vedic” Aryan system (i.e. Indo-Aryan, Iranian or a lost branch not contributing to the vedic saMhitA-s or brAhmaNa-s), as we argued for kumAra, (i.e. marut-s as “para-skanda”)? Or was she directly drawn from the vedic stream? All indications are that she was a well-known but less-hymned deity in the vedic saMhitA-s. Scattered mantra-s to her are found in the RV, the AV-saMhitA-s, mantra-praShna-s of yajurveda and the mantra-brAhmaNa of the sAmaveda. She is invoked and made oblations in certain key shrauta and gR^ihya rituals consistently across all vedic traditions.

Main rite involving revatI in the shrauta cycle is prAyanIyeShTI that is performed after the yajamAna has attained dIkSha. It involves 5 oblations, which in R^igvedic and shukla yajurvedic tradition are (e.g. kaushItaki brAhmaNa 7.6-7.8; aitareya brAhmaNa 2.1-5; shatapatha brAhmaNa 3.2.3): In the north to revatI, called as pathyA svasti, in the east an oblation of ghee is made to agni, in the south to soma, in the west to savitar and then a charu is offered to aditi, who rules over zenith. In the concluding udayanIyeShTI he makes similar offerings, however beginning with agni, then soma, then savitar, then revatI and finally aditi. Then an oblation is made to the marut-s. The yajamAna should make the yAjya verses of the prAyanIyeShTI into the puronuvAkya verses of the udanIyeShTI and vice versa else he is liable to be killed. In the kR^iShNa yajurvedic form of the ritual the offering of pathyA svastI is associated with the East, agni with the south, soma with the west, savitar with the north and aditi with the zenith (taittirIya saMhitA 6.1.5). In this case the recommended mantra-s used in the invocation and offering to revatI are RV 10.63.15-16. A similar oblation to revatI in the prAyanIyeShTI is also recorded in the atharva vedic shrauta tradition in the vaitAna sUtra (vai.sU 13.2) but uses the above AV mantra for revatI. The AV-vulgate 6.4.7 for revatI is also deployed rAjan in the rAjakarman related to installation of the rAjan on the throne.

Another notable shrauta oblation made to revatI was in the human sacrifice – the puruShamedha ritual. In the ashvamedha before the horse is sent off to wander for an year an oblation is performed to pUShan pathikR^it to protect the horse. In the puruShamedha, in place of this pUShan ritual, one is performed to the 3 devI-s, anumatI, revatI and aditi. This is recorded in both R^igvedic and atharvavedic tradition (shA~NkhAyana shrauta 16.10.11; vaitAna shrauta sUtra 37.10.20).

In the gR^ihya tradition of the sAmaveda a ritual to revatI and other goddesses is recorded in the context of the shravaNa and the AgrahAyaNI sacrifices (gobhila gR^ihyasUtra 4.8). Here after making the main offerings of fried rice in household fire the ritualist leaves a reminder of rice for the further oblations to the goddesses. He goes out of his village in the eastern or northern direction and at a four-cross (chatuShpatha) he installs a sthaNDila and kindles the fire. Then he makes oblations with the reminder of the rice with the mantra from the mantra brAhmaNa (2.6.2-5) to rAkA, sinIvAlI and revatI. The viShNu smR^iti, which is derived from the kaTha tradition of the kR^iShNa yajurveda mentions a rite for the pacification of the goddess revatI, which is performed every month when the moon is in the asterism of revatI (vi.smR^I 90.26). Here brAhmaNa-s are feed with a sweet pudding and the pleasing of revatI confers beauty on the ritualist.

In the core vedic period we note a connection between puShan, the ancient deity of the paths, and revatI called pathyA or the goddess of the paths. This connection plays out in many contexts in overt and some times subtle ways. Earlier we noted how in the puruShamedha the iShTi to puShA is replaced by that to the 3 goddess including revatI. In the recitation for the nakShatreShTi from taittirIya brAhmaNa (3.1.27) we note that the constellation named revatI is associated with puShan and they are called upon to protect the paths, animals and food:
puShA revaty anveti panthAM | puShTipatI pashupA vAjabastyau | imAni havyA prayatA juShANA | sugair no yAnairupayAtAM yaj~naM | kShudrAn pashUn rakShatu revatI naH | gAvo no ashvAGM anvetu pUShA | annaGM rakShantau bahudhA virUpaM | vAjaGM sanutAM yajamAnAya yaj~nam ||
In the atharvavedic chant of the gods’ wives recited by the agnIdhra, revatI as pathyA is mentioned as the wife of puShan (gopatha brAhmaNa 2.2.9):
pR^ithivy agneḥ patnI | vAg vAtasya patnI | senendrasya patnI | dhenA bR^ihaspateH patnI | *pathyA pUShNaH patnI* | gAyatrI pashUnAM patnI | triShTub rudrANAM patnI | jagaty AdityAnAM patnI | anuShTum mitrasya patnI | virAD varuNasya patnI | pa~Nktir viShNoH patnI | dIkShA somasya rAj~naH patnI ||
The astronomical connection between pUShan and revatI suggested by the nakShatreShTi ritual might in some ways mirror the later connection between skanda and revatI (i.e. the source of the connection is astronomical – the constellations depicting skanda, nejameSha and revatI lie next to each other in the sky.  Even in the AV revatI and kR^ittikA are mentioned together). This astronomical connection seems to persists in later times where we see a goddess with pair of fish throughout India depicted in terracottas and in the shu~Nga and chera coins. This pair of fish stands for the rAshI of matysa which corresponds to the nakShatra revatI. Thus, the goddess might be cautiously identified with revatI. Thus But there are some very subtle astronomical references relating pUShan which I tentatively and speculatively point to as the beginning of the connection with kumAra. These are found in the RV itself in the mantra-s of medhAtithi kANva (RV 1.23.13-15):
A pUSha~n chitrabarhiSham AghR^iNe dharuNaM divaH | AjA naShTaM yathA pashum ||
pUShA rAjAnam AghR^iNir apagULhaM guhA hitam | avindach chitrabarhiSham ||
uto sa mahyam indubhiH ShaD yuktAn anuseShidhat | gobhir yavaM na charkR^iShat ||

While the complete interpretation of these R^ik-s is a story in itself one may ponder upon the words: chitrabarhiSh, guhA and ShaD yuktaM.

~ by mAnasa-taraMgiNI on December 4, 2008.

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