Notes on the Bhadra-sūkta, a hymn for felicity to the Vedic pantheon

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Several sub-schools of the Taittirīya school of the Kṛṣṇayajurveda possess their own collections of mantra-s distinct from their saṃhitā-s known as the mantra-pāṭha-s. These include mantra-s that are often found in other traditions but not in their own saṃhitā or brāhmaṇa. Additionally, they also include some mantra-s which are unique to these mantra-pāṭha-s. For example the famous Yajurvedic version of the Śrīsūkta is found in the mantra-pāṭha of Bodhāyana. However, most practitioners in South India do not correctly use the accents of this sūkta and seem to be unaware that the KYV version of this sūkta occurs in this text. The mantra-paṭha-s of the Āpastamba, Bodhāyana, Vaikhānasa and Hiraṇyakeśin sub-schools have come down to us. The mantra-s in them are typically deployed in gṛhya rituals directed by instructions from their gṛhyasūtra-s. However, the Vaikhānasa-mantra-pāṭha is distinctive in having a late terminal part that is used in the iconic worship of Viṣṇu by the Vaikhānasa-s. The Hiraṇyakeśī-mantra-pāṭha has a ṛk-saṃhitā as part of it and is used by the Hiraṇyakeśīn-s of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu in their rituals to this date. In someways this is reminiscent of the hautra-pariśiṣṭha of the Āpastamba-s that is used by Yajurvedin-s to supplement the role normally performed by the Ṛgvedin hotṛ.

Other than these mantra-pāṭha-s of the KYV, we also have comparable supplementary mantra-collections among the Sāmavedin-s in their Mantrabrāhmaṇa and the famous khila of the RV. Further, beyond the Taittirīya school, the Kaṭha school, which was once widespread in the northern parts of the subcontinent like Kashmir and the Panjab, had it own mantra-paṭha that went along with their gṛhyasūtra, namely that of Laugākṣi. While the original form of this mantra-paṭha does not survive to my knowledge, a version of it with accretions of tāntrika and paurānika material used in smārta practice by the brāhmaṇa-s of Kashmir and some of their counterparts in Himachal Pradesh has come down to us. This text was published by the Kashmirian brāhmaṇa-s Keśava Bhaṭṭa and Kāśīnātha-śarman in the first half of the 1900s. I had earlier examined a defective version of this text but thanks to the massive text-scanning effort of the eGangotri Trust of the texts at the Kashmir Research Institute, Srinagar we can now examine a better version of this text.

The melding of tāntrika and vaidika tradition found in this Kashmirian text has a long history in Hindu tradition. Indeed, as we have pointed out before[footnote 1], a small mantra-saṃhitā comparable to the mantra-pāṭha-s is found preserved in the śākta-purāṇa, the Devī-purāṇa, which might preserve a distinct vaidika tradition. Similarly, the Āṅgirasakalpa of the Paippalāda school of the Atharvaveda preserves a combined mantra-deployment of Paippalāda AV mantra-s along with tāntrika-vidyā-s. With regard to the AV tradition one may also point to the Tripurārṇava-tantra, an authoritative mūla-tantra of the Śrīkula tradition. The 20^{th} taraṃga of this text preserves a combined tāntrika-vaidika mantra-deployment for the Indramahotsva (the great festival of Indra) which associates itself the AV. This association is likely genuine for the AV is the one vaidika tradition that has clear injunctions for the Indramahotsva in its pariśiṣṭha-s. This section of the Tripurārṇava-tantra specifies several vaidika mantra-s that are to be used in the worship of Indra and other deva-s, which are combined with the worship of the Bhairava of the Śrīkula tradition under the tāntrika scheme.

Our Kashmirian text associated with the Kaṭha school, like other mantra-paṭha-s, has some unique Vedic material. One such is the Bhadrasūkta which is the topic of this note. This sūkta of 22 ṛk-s is to our knowledge not found in any other saṃhitā. It is mostly comprised of regular jagati-s (12-12-12-12), with the last ṛk being a triṣṭubh (11-11-11-11). There may be some hypermetrical verses like ṛk-17 (12-12-12-13). The sūkta has a form rather similar to the RV7.35 of Vasiṣṭha Maitrāvaruṇi. Like that one it is a vaiśvadeva-sūkta, which invokes the entire pantheon for luck or felicity. In RV7.35 the word for luck or felicity is the indeclinable śam. In our sūkta the word bhadra is used instead. It is used as an adjective that declines as the deity being invoked with the dative pronoun naḥ (“for us”) being used just like in RV7.35. Hence, in this sūkta we translate bhadra as auspicious (or can be taken in the sense of the deity being luck-granting). This word bhadra is also found in multiple ṛk-s of another famous vaiśvadeva-sūkta, RV1.89 of Gotama Rāhūgaṇa, in an equivalent sense (ā no bhadrāḥ; devānām bhadrā sumatir ṛjūyatāṃ; bhadraṃ karṇebhiḥ śṛṇuyāma devā bhadram paśyemākṣabhir yajatrāḥ). More generally, the pattern of the repetitions of bhadra is seen on multiple occasions in the RV albeit not in vaiśvadeva-sūkta-s (e.g. RV8.62 of Pragātha Kāṇva) and also in the AV saṃhitā-s. A ṛk of Sobhari Kāṇva (RV8.19.19) also uses the word bhadra repeated in a sense similar to this sūkta:
bhadro no agnir āhuto bhadrā rātiḥ subhaga bhadro adhvaraḥ | bhadrā uta praśastayaḥ ||
For us auspicious Agni when he is made an offering, the auspicious gift, the auspicious ritual, you the giver of good luck, [for us] auspicious hymns of praise.
Another comparable word is svasti (“well-being”) used in a similar sense by the Atri-s in their vaiśvadeva-sūkta, RV5.51.11-15 and also by Gotama Rāhūgaṇa in RV1.89. Indeed, in the Kashmirian tradition the Bhadrasūkta is used on conjunction with RV1.89 and RV5.51.11-15. This style continues into the epic period where we observe Kausalyā confer a blessing on Rāma using a comparable incantation with svasti ( in R2.25).

The pantheon of the Bhadrasūkta is entirely Vedic with no paurāṇika features. This squarely places the sūkta within the classic vaidika tradition and it was perhaps even originally attached to some now lost saṃhitā. However, in ṛk-2 we encounter the god Prajāpati. He is not found in the comparable RV7.35 or other core RV vaiśvadeva-sūkta-s. He appears to have entered the Vedic tradition relatively late from a para-Vedic tradition [footnote 2]. His position in the sūkta suggests that he has not superseded the old aindra system as it happened in the even later Vedic layers. In this regard his position is comparable to that found the camaka-praśna of the Yajurveda tradition. This suggests that the sūkta indeed belongs to a comparable relative temporal layer and was a relatively late composition with the Vedic tradition, perhaps consciously mirroring the RV7.35 and RV1.89. The final ṛk has the refrain: “tanno mitro varuṇo mā mahantām aditiḥ sindhuḥ pṛthivī uta dyauḥ” (Mitra and Varuṇa, Aditi, the river, the Earth and also Heaven should grant this to us), which is characteristic of the Kutsa-s of the RV (e.g. RV1.94). Kutsa also has a certain predilection for composing low complexity sūkta-s, which is also seen rather plainly in this one. Importantly, his two vaiśvadeva-sūkta-s, RV1.105 and RV1.106, have characteristic low-complexity style with repetition. Notably, his sūkta to the Sun (RV1.115) uses the word bhadra repeatedly as in this sūkta. Together, these indicate that the composer of the Bhadrasūkta was a member of the Kautsa clan.

Some notable features of the Bhadrasūkta are:

1. Venas is implored to be ever-desirous (uśan…sadā) of the worshiper. This furnishes a link between Venas and the later name of Venus in Sanskrit tradition, Uśanas. Thus, it further strengthens the identification of Venas with Venus and suggests an early IE origin for this planetary name.

2. Mātariśvan is explicitly identified with Vāyu in this sūkta. In the RV Mātariśvan is often mentioned as bringing Agni to the Bhārgava-s and humans at large (evidently from Vivasvat). In RV3.29.11 Viśvāmitra clarifies this identification by stating: “mātariśvā yad amimīta mātari vātasya sargo abhavat sarīmaṇi ||”: [He is called] Mātariśvan when he measures out [the space] in his mother; he became the rush of the wind in flowing out. Thus, we translate Mātariśvan as “he who grows in his mother” meaning “he who grows in the world-womb.

3. In ṛk-10 we seen an invocation of various physiological processes. This is unique for a vaiśvadeva-sūkta and not seen in RV sūkta-s of this type. In this regard it has a flavor more typical of the AV.

4. In ṛk-s 12-14 we encounter a great diversity of devatā-dvandva-s, which is unprecedented in any other vaiśvadeva-sūkta elsewhere in the śruti.

The emended text of the sūkta is presented below with an approximate translation.

Bhadrasūkta: text
bhadro no agniḥ suhavo vibhāvasur bhadra indraḥ puruhūtaḥ puruṣṭutaḥ |
bhadraḥ sūrya urucakṣā uruvyacā bhadraś candramāḥ samitheṣu jāgṛviḥ ||1||
For us the auspicious Agni, well-invoked and abounding in light, the auspicious Indra much-invoked and much-hymned; the auspicious Sun, wide-seeing and wide-ranging, the auspicious Moon keeping an eye [on us] in the battle.

bhadraḥ prajā ajanayannaḥ prajāpatir bhadraḥ somaḥ pavamano vṛṣā hariḥ |
bhadras tvaṣṭā vidadhad rūpāṇy adbhuto bhadro no dhātā varivasyatu prajāḥ ||2||
For us the auspicious Prajāpati [who] progeny-generated, the auspicious Soma, the purified one [Footnote 3] and the manly yellow one; the auspicious Tvasṭṛ giving wondrous forms [to things]. May the auspicious Dhātṛ show favor to [our] progeny.

bhadras tārkṣyaḥ suprajastvāya no mahām̐ ariṣṭanemiḥ pṛtanā yudhā jayan |
bhadro vāyur mātariśvā niyutpatir veno gayasphāna uśan sadā ‘stu naḥ ||3||
For us the auspicious Tārkṣya Ariṣṭanemi for the sake of good progeny and for conquering the hostile army by means of battle; the auspicious Vāyu, expanding within the world-womb [footnote 4], the lord of the team of horses. May Venus, the wealth-increaser, be always desirous of us.

bhadro mitro varuṇo rudra id vṛdhā bhadro ‘hirbudhnyo bhuvanasya rakṣitā |
bhadro no vāstoṣpatir astv amīvahā bhadraḥ kṣetrasya patir vicarṣaṇiḥ ||4||
For us the auspicious Mitra and Varuṇa, and Rudra verily with augmentation, and Ahirbudhnya the protector of the universe; the auspicious guardian of the homestead: may he be the destroyer of illness and the auspicious guardian of the field, ever-full of activity.

bhadro vibhur viśvakarmā bṛhaspatir bhadro dviṣastapano brahmaṇaspatiḥ |
bhadraḥ suparṇo aruṇo marut-sakhā bhadro no vāto abhivātu bheṣajī ||5||
For us the mighty, all-maker Bṛhaspati, the auspicious foe-scorcher and lord of the ritual; the auspicious falcon, reddish-brown and the friend of the Marut-s [footnote 5]. May the auspicious Vāta [footnote 6] blow medicines towards us.

bhadro dadhikrā vṛṣabhaḥ kanikradad bhadraḥ parjanyo bahudhā virājati |
bhadrā sarasvām̐ uta naḥ sarasvatī bhadro vaśī bhadra indraḥ purūravaḥ ||6||
For us the auspicious [horse] Dadhikra, the neighing stallion, the auspicious Parjanya [who] manifoldly shines forth; the auspicious Sarasvat and also Sarasvatī, the auspicious cow and the auspicious Indra, the loud-roarer.

bhadro naḥ pūṣā savitā yamo bhago bhadro ‘graja ekapād aryamā manuḥ |
bhadro viṣṇur urugāyo vṛṣā harir bhadro vivasvām̐ abhivātu nastmanā ||7||
For us the auspicious Pūṣaṇ, Savitṛ, Yama and Bhaga, and the auspicious first-born Ekapāt, Aryaman and Manu; the auspicious Viṣṇu, the wide-strider and the manly lion. May indeed the auspicious Vivasvat blow towards us.

bhadrā gāyatrī kakub uṣṇihā virāḍ bhadrānuṣṭup bṛhatī paṅktir astu naḥ |
bhadrā nas triṣṭub jagatī purupriyā bhadrāticchāndā bahudhā vibhūvarī ||8||
For us the auspicious Gāyatrī, Kakubh, Uṣṇihā [Footnote 7] and Virāṭ. May Anuṣṭubh, Bṛhatī, Paṅkti each be auspicious to us. For us the auspicious Triṣṭubh, the much-loved Jagati [footnote 8] and the auspicious long meters manifold and of many treasures.

bhadrā no rākānumatiḥ kuhūḥ suhṛd bhadrā sinīvāly aditir mahī dhruvā |
bhadrā no dyaur antarikṣaṃ mayaskaraṃ bhadro ‘śvo dakṣastanayāya nas tuje ||9||
For us the the auspicious Rākā, Anumati and friendly Kuhū, auspicious Sinivālī, Aditi, and the firm Earth goddess. For us the auspicious Heaven goddess, the atmosphere giving pleasure, the auspicious horse, and Dakṣa for extending for us [our] lineage.

bhadro naḥ prāṇaḥ sumanāḥ suvāgasad bhadro apānaḥ satanuḥ sahātmanā |
bhadraṃ cakṣur bhadram icchotram astu no bhadraṃ na āyuḥ śarado asacchatām ||10||
For us the auspicious life-process with a good mind and good speech unmanifest, the auspicious excretory process with the body and the consciousness; indeed may the vision be auspicious and hearing be auspicious for us. For us the auspicious life with autumns, a 100 yet to manifest.

bhadrendrāgnī no bhavatām ṛtāvṛdhā bhadrā no mitrāvaruṇā dhṛtavratā |
bhadrāśvinā no bhavatāṃ navedasā bhadrā dyāvā-pṛthivī viśva-śaṃbhuvā ||11||
For us the auspicious Indra and Agni fostering the Law; for us the auspicious Mitra and Varuṇa maintaining the Laws. May the two auspicious Aśvin-s be cognizant [of us]. For us the auspicious Heaven and Earth benevolent to all.

bhadrā na indrāvaruṇā riśādasā bhadrā na indrā bhavatāṃ bṛhaspatī |
bhadrendrāviṣṇū savaneṣu yāvṛdhā bhadrendrāsomā yudhi dasyu-hantamā ||12||
For us the auspicious Indra and Varuṇa, devourers of foes. May Indra and Bṛhaspati be auspicious to us. [For us] auspicious Indra and Viṣṇu who augment [us] during the soma libations. May the auspicious Indra and Soma slay the dasyu in battle.

bhadrāgnāviṣṇū vidadhasya prasādhanā bhadrā no ‘gnīndrā vṛṣabhā-divaspatī |
bhadrā no agnīvaruṇā pracetasā bhadrāgnīṣomā bhavatāṃ navedasā ||13||
For us the auspicious Agni and Viṣṇu, the ornaments of the gift-distribution. For us the auspicious Agni and Indra, the bulls, the lords of heaven. For us the auspicious Agni and Varuṇa, the ever-mindful ones. May the auspicious Agni and Soma be cognizant of us.

bhadrā sūryā-candramasā kavikratū bhadrā somā bhavatāṃ pūṣaṇā naḥ |
bhadrendrāvāyū pṛtanāsu-sāsahī bhadrā sūryāgnī ajitā dhanañjayā ||14||
For us the auspicious Sun and Moon, the two full of insight. May Soma and Pūṣaṇ be auspicious. [For us] the auspicious Indra and Vayu conquering in battle and the auspicious Sūrya and Agni unconquered and winning wealth.

bhadrā naḥ santu vasavo vasuprajā bhadrā rudrā vṛtrahaṇā purandharā |
bhadrā ādityāḥ supasaḥ sunītayo bhadrā rājāno maruto virapśinaḥ ||15||
May the auspicious Vasu-s be wealth and progeny [giving]. For us the auspicious Rudra-s who slay Vṛtra and smash the [hostile] forts and the auspicious Āditya-s, well-seeing and well-guiding, and the auspicious kings, the Marut-s, the exuberant ones [footnote 9].

bhadrā na ūmā suhavāḥ śataśriyo viśvedevā manavaś carṣaṇīdhṛtaḥ |
bhadrāḥ sādhyā abhibhavaḥ sūracakṣaso bhadrā naḥ santv ṛbhavo ratna-dhātamāḥ ||16||
For us the auspicious helper-[gods], well-invoked and with a 100 riches, all the gods and the Manu-s, supporters of the folks. For us the auspicious Sādhya-s, the overpowerers, radiant as the Sun. May the auspicious Ṛbhu-s be gem-givers for us.

bhadrāḥ sarve vājino vājasātayo bhadrā ṛṣayaḥ pitaro gabhastayaḥ |
bhadrā bhṛgavo ‘ṅgirasaḥ sudānavo bhadrā gandharvāpsarasaḥ sudaṃsasaḥ ||17||
Auspicious the racers, winners of booty; auspicious the sages, [our] ancestors, the sun-beams. Auspicious the Bhṛgu-s and Aṅgiras-es, the liberal givers; auspicious the Gandharva-s and Apsaras-es, the powerful ones[footnote 10].

bhadrā āpaḥ śucayo viśvabhṛttamā bhadrāḥ śivā yakṣmanudo na oṣadhīḥ |
bhadrā gāvaḥ surabhayo vayovṛdho bhadrā yoṣā uśatīr devapatnyaḥ ||18||
For us the auspicious waters, pure and the foremost supporters of all, the auspicious, benign, disease-repulsing herbs; the auspicious cows, charming and invigorating, the auspicious nymphs and loving wives of the gods.

bhadrāṇi sāmāni sadā bhavantu no bhadrā atharvāṇa ṛco yajūṃṣi naḥ |
bhadrā nakṣatrāṇi śivāni viśvā bhadrā āśā ahrutāḥ santu no hṛdi ||19||
May the Saman-s forever be auspicious to us. For us the Atharvaṇ spells, the ṛk-s and the yajuṣ-es. May the auspicious asterisms [be] all benign and [may the] directions, the coordinate lines be auspicious at their conjunction.

saṃvatsarā na ṛtavo mayobhuvo yo vā āyuvāḥ susarāṇy uta kṣapāḥ |
muhūrtāḥ kāṣṭāḥ pradiśo diśaś ca sadā bhadrā santu dvipade śaṃ catuṣpade ||20||
The years [of the 5 year cycle] and the seasons be gladdening to us, be they productive, easy-going or drought-ridden. May the muhūrta (=48 minutes)-s and kaṣṭa (=3.2 seconds)-s, the directions and the inter-directions be ever-auspicious and [may there be] welfare for the bipeds and quadrupeds.

bhadraṃ paśyema pracarema bhadraṃ bhadraṃ vadema śṛṇuyāma bhadram |
tanno mitro varuṇo mā mahantām aditiḥ sindhuḥ pṛthivī uta dyauḥ ||21||
May we see auspiciousness. May we perform auspiciousness. May we speak auspiciousness. May we hear auspiciousness. Mitra and Varuṇa, Aditi, the river, the Earth and also Heaven should grant this to us.

2. Note the presence of a comparable deity among the Greeks in the form of Phanes or Protogonos
3. Emended pāvamāna to pavamāna
4. Mātariśvan: literally growing within the mother: the mother implies the world-womb or the world-hemisphere
5. Later tradition clarifies him to be the charioteer of the Sun
6. The wind deity
7. Another form of Uṣṇih meter
8. The composer seems to indicate his love for the Jagati, the meter in which he has composed most of the sūkta
9. Emended virapsin to virapśin keeping with the form found in the RV
10. Emended sudamśas to sudamsas

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