RV 10.78

RV 10.77 and 10.78 are similarly themed sūkta-s to the Marut-s by our ancient clansman Syūmaraśmi Bhārgava. He is mentioned twice by authors within the RV – in RV 1.112.16 by Kutsa Āṅgirasa and in RV 8.52.2 by Āyu Kāṇva. In the first instance, he is mentioned as being aided by the Aśvin-s, and in the second he is mentioned as performing a soma sacrifice where he made offerings to Indra. Of his two sūkta, we shall only consider 10.78 below. While the anukraṃani lists it as being composed of triṣṭubh-s and jagati-s, several ṛk-s do not conform to those meters (the syllable count is given in brackets). Instead, in several of them, one hemistich is triṣṭubh-like and the other is jagati-like. Some, like the first ṛk, conform to neither. It was perhaps an unusual meter that was lost in later Indo-Aryan tradition. It has been suggested that it might have been a mātra meter like those from the later register of the language.

viprāso na manmabhiḥ svādhyo
devāvyo na yajñaiḥ svapnasaḥ । (18)
rājāno na citrāḥ susaṃdṛśaḥ
kṣitīnāṃ na maryā arepasaḥ ॥ 1 (21)

Well-minded like vipra-s with mantra-thoughts,
wealthy like those seeking the gods with rituals,
beautiful in appearance like splendid kings,
spotless like the young warriors of the nations…

agnir na ye bhrājasā rukma-vakṣaso
vātāso na svayujaḥ sadya-ūtayaḥ । (24)
prajñātāro na jyeṣṭhāḥ sunītayaḥ
suśarmāṇo na somā ṛtaṃ yate ॥ 2 (23) (hypometrical jagati)

Who with golden ornaments on their chests blaze like Agni,
like winds with their own yokemates bring instant aid,
guides who like elders provide good council,
who provide good protection like soma offerings to seekers of the law…

vātāso na ye dhunayo jigatnavo
.agnīnāṃ na jihvā virokiṇaḥ । (21)
varmaṇvanto na yodhāḥ śimīvantaḥ
pitṝṇāṃ na śaṃsāḥ surātayaḥ ॥ 3 (21) (doubly hypometrical triṣṭubh)

Who like roaring winds move quickly,
like the tongues of fires shine forth brightly,
striving like armored warriors,
liberal like the ancestors at the ritual lauds…

rathānāṃ na ye .arāḥ sanābhayo
jigīvāṃso na śūrā abhidyavaḥ । (21)
vareyavo na maryā ghṛtapruṣo
.abhisvartāro arkaṃ na suṣṭubhaḥ ॥ 4 (21) (doubly hypometrical triṣṭubh)

Who, like the spokes of wheels, have the same nave (navel=source),
like conquering brave warriors facing heaven,
showering ghee like the young warriors wooing [their bride= Rodasī],
like chanters reciting the arka incantation…

aśvāso na ye jyeṣṭhāsa āśavo
didhiṣavo na rathyaḥ sudānavaḥ । (22) (triṣṭubh-like)
āpo na nimnair udabhir jigatnavo
viśvarūpā aṅgiraso na sāmabhiḥ ॥ 5 (24) (jagati-like)

Who are swift like the best horses,
good givers like the charioteers seeking a common bride [=Rodasī]
like waters constantly moving with dense moisture,
multiform like the Aṅgiras-es with their Saman-s…

grāvāṇo na sūrayaḥ sindhumātara
ādardirāso adrayo na viśvahā । (24) (jagati-like)
śiśūlā na krīḻayaḥ sumātaro
mahāgrāmo na yāmann uta tviṣā ॥ 6 (22) (triṣṭubh-like)

Liberal ones like soma-pressing stones, with the river as their mother,
repeatedly smashing everything like rocks,
playful like little children, they with a good mother,
move like a great troop imbued with impetuosity…

uṣasāṃ na ketavo adhvaraśriyaḥ
śubhaṃyavo nāñjibhir vy aśvitan । (22) (triṣṭubh-like)
sindhavo na yayiyo bhrājadṛṣṭayaḥ
parāvato na yojanāni mamire ॥ 7 (24) (jagati-like)

Imparting auspiciousness to the ritual like the rays of the dawns,
Shining forth with brilliance as if seeking auspiciousness,
rushing like rivers, with blazing spears,
as if they have measured out the yojana-s of the yonder realm…

subhāgān no devāḥ kṛṇutā suratnān
asmān stotṝn maruto vāvṛdhānāḥ । (23) (hypometrical jagati-like)
adhi stotrasya sakhyasya gāta
sanād dhi vo ratnadheyāni santi ॥ 8 (21) (hypometrical triṣṭubh-like)

O gods, make us the possessors of good shares and good gems,
us reciters of chants to you O Marut-s, who have been eulogized,
May you attend to our chant and friendship,
for indeed since ancient times the gifting of gems has been yours.

The sūkta has the structure of a riddle hymn, or a brahmodya, where the first 7 ṛk-s are a series of similes. There are a total of 28 similes using na as the comparator, one per foot, each presenting an attribute of the deities of the sūkta. This 4 x 7 pattern is perhaps an implicit acknowledgement of the 7-fold troops of the Marut-s. The sūkta finally culminates in the answer to the riddle in ṛk-8, where the name of the deities is revealed as the Marut-s. To cap it off, the pronoun naḥ (us) is used in the last ṛk. to pair with the comparator na found in the rest. Another striking feature of the sūkta is the repeated (12 times) use of words with the prefix su-, i.e., good or auspicious. Its count in each of the ṛk-s is provided below:
1 3
2 2
3 1
4 2
5 1
6 1
7 0
8 2
While the 7th does not feature such a word, it has two successive words, adhvaraśriyaḥ and śubhaṃyavaḥ, which respectively feature śrī and śubham, both of which imply auspiciousness. We suspect this is intentional, with the build-up of 6 ṛk-s with the su- prefix leading to ṛk-7, where the author reveals his purpose by stating that they confer auspiciousness to the ritual. He then concludes by returning to the su- prefix in ṛk-8 now that he has made apparent his intention in the previous one.

There are a few other notable features in this sūkta:
1. In ṛk-5 the Marut-s are compared to the Aṅgiras-es singing sāman-s. This brings to mind the riddle sūkta of father Manu, where the same metaphor is used for the Marut-s: arcanta eke mahi sāma manvata tena sūryam arocayan ।

2. There are several direct and suggestive “linkages” between the ṛk-s: 1 and 4 are linked by the word marya describing the Marut-s are young warriors. Ṛk-s 2 and 3 are linked by double similes comparing them to both Agni and the Vāta-s. The coupling of the Marut-s with Agni is an important feature of their membership in the Raudra-class, reflecting the duality of Agni and their father Rudra. This is presented in ritual in the form of the offerings accompanying the Agnimāruta-śastra (see RV 1.19). Their connection to the Vāta-s, is emphasized in the post-Vedic traditions starting with the Rāmāyaṇa – Māruti as the son of Vāyu-Vāta and the paurāṇika identification of the Marut-s with the winds. This potentially reflects a parallel early IE tradition (c.f., the Greek reflex of the sparkling or swift-moving wind-deity Aeolus/Aiolos with this 12 stormy children). On the other hand, the connection to Agni (and also Vāyu in the Southern Kaumāra tradition) is retained in the Kaumāra tradition of Skanda, the para-Marut. Further, the accouterments of the warrior (marya) also ṛk-s 2 and 3 – the first has śarman – implying a helmet and the second has varman – armor. Ṛk-4 refers to the arka and ṛk-5 to the sāman – this probably reflects the combination of the śastra and stotra recitation occurring in the soma offering to the Marut-s.

3. Ṛk-s 6 and 7 are linked by riverine similes. Ṛk-6 speaks of the matriline of the Marut-s – they are said to have good maternity, implying Pṛṣṇī. However, remarkably, they are also said to have the river as their mother. This is a rare phrase and in a non-metaphorical sense is only applied elsewhere in the RV to the other sons of Rudra, i.e., the Aśvin-s (RV 1.46.2: yā dasrā sindhu-mātarā manotarā rayīṇām ।). This strikingly parallels the birth of Skanda, often in a hexadic form, from the river in the later tradition. Notably, this motif also occurs in one of the narrations of the birth of Gaṇeśa, where he is born from the bathwater of Pārvatī cast into the Gaṅgā and drunk by the riverine elephant-headed goddess Mālinī (e.g., the Kashmirian mantravādin Jayaratha’s Haracaritacintāmaṇi). Further, like the hexad of Kumāra-s and the other Kumāraka-s born of Rudra, in this ṛk, the Marut-s are referred to as śiśūla-s (c.f., Śiśu, the red-eyed, fierce companion of Skanda in the Skandopākhyāna of the Mahābhārata). Hence, we postulate that even in the core Vedic tradition there was an association between Rudra’s progeny and the river mother. This could merely be a metaphor for Pṛṣṇī, given her atmospheric nebular connections or represent her terrestrial ectype in the form of a river. This riverine connection also extends to the aquatic goddess Saravatī, who is explicitly called the friend of the Marut-s (Marutsakhā in RV 7.96.2) and epithet otherwise only applied to one other goddess, i.e., Indrāṇī (RV 10.86.9).

4. Ṛk-s 4 and 5 are linked by the similes of the Marut-s wooing a bride – vareyavaḥ and didhiṣavaḥ. This is an allusion to their wooing of their common bride, Rodasī, who elsewhere in the RV is mentioned as riding in the chariot along with the Marut-s, gleaming like a beautiful lightning (RV 1.64.9) or the spears they bear (RV 1.167.3). This common wife of the Marut-s is reflected in the para-Marut Kaumāra tradition by the name of Skanda, Bhrātṛstrīkāma (AV pariśiṣṭha Skandayāga), i.e., an allusion to Ṣaṣṭhī as the shared wife of Skanda and Viśākha.

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