Vritra and Vala, Part Three

BY: SUN STAFF - 27.4 2021

Indra Subduing Vritra

A serial study of the asura brothers, Vritra and Vala.

In the book, "The Vedic Fathers of Geology" by Narayan Bhavanrao (Poona, 1912), we find a narration on the pastimes of Lord Indra and Vritra, that considers the subject from the standpoints of sastra, symbology and ancient geography. Bhavanrao's presentation argues the sanctity of the Veda and the great antiquity of Bharat varsha, pointing to various historical events as a means of establishing the accuracy of geological markers mentioned in the Vedas. On the subject of Vritra's association with the waters, and Indra's dispatching of the demon, he writes:

"I shall now advert to the Cloud-serpent, always found associated with Indra, and explain by whom, how, why, and where he was killed. I shall then state the consequences that flowed from the action taken by Indra in respect of Vritra, and mention the creations of Indra, as they happen to have had intimate connection with Aryavarta.

We have already seen that Indra was very fond of Soma drink, and that he having asked for it on the very day he was born, his mother had supplied him with it (Rig-Veda III, 48. 2; ante p. 43). We have further evidence to show that Indra had always received material aid from Soma, as it was only after enjoying the Soma-juice, that under its exhilaration, he was able to achieve the first and the great exploits (R.V. II, 15.1). And what are these exploits? These are innumerable, and as such, a detailed description thereof would certainly fill up volumes. But, limited space at our disposal would not allow us to do that, and we shall only content ourselves by mentioning a few of them that are pertinent to our present investigations.

Firstly then, Indra, by means of his thunderbolt, had killed Vritra (R.V. I, 32.5; R.V. I, 32.1), the first born of Serpents (R.V. I, 32.3), as such the oldest [1] and the greatest of them all (R.V. I, 32.5). Here, the expression the first born, of Serpents and the oldest and the greatest of them all is really pregnant with meaning, and therefore will require an explanation, which I will presently offer. But before I do that, I must remind the reader, that Indra's Thunderbolt represents lightning, while the clouds that hold water are represented as Serpents. These had held off by force (R.V. I, 32.8) the rain-waters, and thereby prevented them (R.V. I, 32.8) from falling on the Land of the Seven Rivers. Indra, therefore, by means of his thunderbolt cleaved the serpents and rent asunder the clouds.

The waters then forthwith trickled down from the clouds, and flowed to the sea, (R.V. I, 32.2). Thus, the metaphor is complete, the meaning is clear, and it is all plain sailing, so far. We shall, therefore, turn our attention for a while to the expression, "the first born of Serpents", used in regard to Vritra, as it has a very deep meaning. Nay, it has also vast importance and significance all its own. I shall therefore endeavour to explain this as briefly as possible.

We have already seen that the Serpent means cloud, and Sayana explains the word ahi as meaning megha (R.V. I 32.3). In like manner, Vritra also means serpent; while, Indra is designated as the slayer of Vritra, who withholds the waters in the clouds and the necessary rain. Evidently, destruction of Vritra involved the fall of rain, and therefore he was killed by Indra, and the waters in the clouds let off. We also know that the fall of rain, the rise of the Sun, and the splendour of the Dawn before sunrise, are but the phenomena of Nature, which must have certainly occurred before the advent of Man; nay, these perhaps used to occur even from the beginning of things.

But, all this notwithstanding, our Primitive fore-fathers the oldest ancestors of our Rig-Vedic bards could but mark, very naturally enough, these phenomena, when only they were able to stand on their own legs, or were able to see and to observe, or to appreciate and to admire. It was, therefore, then only that they thought they had for the first time observed waters dropping from the serpent-like clouds which had spread over the endless expanse of space hovering over their heads in the sky; which had held off waters within them; and which were only let off on the earth, after pierced through and smitten (R.V. I, 32.8) by lightening, produced by the all pervading Power, then designated as Indra. These clouds, therefore, were naturally thought to be the first born, the oldest, and the greatest (R.V. I, 32.3, 5).

In fact, the waters that dropped from the clouds were supposed to be the first showers, the first rain-fall, and the first Serpent killed by Indra; because, they had come within the observation of our Primitive ancestors, only for the first time.

Thus, the first observation by our primitive ancestors in respect of the fall of rain from the clouds having been established, the very legitimate question would arise, where had these phenomena occurred? Where were the rain-clouds seen? And where had the rainwaters dropped down? This, therefore, we shall proceed to prove presently.

From Rig-Veda (I, 32.11), we perceive that Indra had, by killing Vritra, thrown open the gates of waters, which were kept closed by Vritra-serpent, who, moreover, had held off the waters which had stayed in the clouds, as if confined like kine held by a robber. And now the very next verse of the Rig-Veda answers the question and informs us that the waters held off, or imprisoned in the cave by Vritra, and subsequently let off, or restored to freedom by Indra after conquest, had flooded the Seven Rivers, as it was intended by God that these should flow. This, in other words, means that after thunder and lightning, there were heavy showers of rain from the clouds , which having filled the Seven Rivers of Aryavarta, they began to flow. (R.V. I, 32.12)

Here, the words Sapta-Sindhun certainly refer to the renowned Seven Rivers of Aryavarta, and the previous hoary traditions support this view. For, says Sayana, as follows, while commenting on Rig-Veda (I. 32.1 2): [Sanskrit sloka omitted].

But, more than this, and as if to corroborate the fact and fortify our conclusions, we have further testimony to prove that the clouds from which waters were first observed by our ancestors, trickling down the Earth and flooding the Seven Rivers, were hovering over the great Indus of Aryavarta: and the Vritra-Serpent that had withheld waters in the clouds and was therefore killed by Indra, was also lying concealed in the clouds that were hovering over this very Indus. The evidence in this respect is of the utmost importance, and we make no apology to give it here in full. For, in II 11.9 of the Rig-Veda, the poet says that, "Indra hurled down and killed deceitful Vritra, that was lying concealed on the great Indus.

Here, the words used in the verse are not only plain and simple, but unequivocal and distinct, and as such convey a very clear meaning; since [Sanskrit word omitted] means the great, and [word omitted] means the Indus, one of the Seven renowned Rivers of Aryavarta which Indra had let flow, after having slain the Vritra-Serpent (R.V. II, 12.3).

Now, after this phenomenon, viz. the first observation by the Primitive ancestors of our Rig-Vedic fore-fathers, of the fall of rain in the Land of the Seven Rivers, or to speak in the usual Vedic metaphor, the observation of the destruction of Vritra- Serpent, which appears to have been the first heroic deed, out of the several achieved by Indra at the very commencement, we come next to Indra's second and third deed of heroism, which, in short, consists of the creation of the Dawn and the Sun (RV I, 32. 4). These the Rig-Vedic Poets beautifully portray in very glowing colours, and while giving a graphic description of them, when their wonderful splendour was perceived above the horizon, they but inadvertently throw a surprisingly agreeable hint in respect of the region where these were first observed by our Primitive ancestors. This careful observation, therefore, affords but another due to our Aryan cradle and Original Home, and as it seems to be of great moment, I venture to give the original text in extenso, along with its translation, as rendered into English by Oriental and Occidental scholars.

We have already seen that the first deed of heroism achieved by Indra was the slaying of Vritra-Serpent and the consequent fall of rain, a phenomenon of Nature, and that his next exploits, among others, were the creation of the Dawn and the Sun (R.V. I, 32.4). Now, the chief thing with which we are here concerned, in regard to the fact after their creation is: where was the Dawn first seen? And where was the Sun first observed by our Primitive Ancestors?

We all know that the delightful Dawn, the splendour of the morning Sun, and the Dawn disappearing in, or absorbed by, the rising Sun, are but the usual phenomena of Nature. And the only question is, where had these occurred, or [been] observed by our Primitive ancestors? We must, therefore, go to the Rig-Veda, and seek its assistance for answering the queries.

In the Rig-Veda (IV, 30.8, 9) and many other places, we find the Dawn represented as the daughter of the Sky or Dyaus (R.V. IV, 30.9) and Indra (meaning the Sun, as in R.V. I, 6.3; 1.26; IV, 26.1; X, 89.2) described as having crushed her (R.V. IV, 30.9). After this, however, another verse states to say that, Ushas had fled away affrighted, because her car was smashed by Indra (R.V. IV, 30.10). This, evidently, is the morning phenomenon, and naturally conveys the idea that the splendour of the Dawn or the morning light, having first appeared, had disappeared after a while in the bright rays of the Sun, or rather was absorbed in it, after its appearance on the horizon.

But, the essential point has yet remained unsolved, and, as such, we must endeavour to find out the place or the region where the Dawn had disappeared in the glowing light of the Sun. Fortunately for us, after making requisite researches in the inexhaustible mine of the Rig-Veda, we come across the thing sought for. Because, the Rishi, Wama Deva, informs us to say that, "the Dawn was crushed by Indra, as she appeared proudly (R.V. IV, 30.9), that her car lay smashed on the river Vipash, after it was broken by Indra; and that she had afterwards fled away from thence." The original is as under:

"That car of hers lay smashed on the Vipat. Away she ran from thence." (S.P. Pandit)

"So, there, this car of Ushas lay, broken to pieces, in Vipas. And she herself fled far away." (R. T. H. Griffith)

It is hardly necessary here to state that the Dawn and the Sun were created in Aryavarta by Indra, who was also of Aryavarta, as the Dawn had appeared and disappeared in the region of the river Vipash (modern Beeas), and the Sun also had made its appearance on the horizon of the same region, viz. Beeas, which evidently forms part of the Punjab. (Vide Rig-Veda IV, 30.9, 11).

Here, then, we stand on solid ground and terrestrial evidence. For, the river Vipash referred to in the aforesaid verse is the modern Beeas, and Yaska identifies it with the river Arjikiya, as he says [sloka omitted].

This, therefore, is not an imaginary river, but a real terrestrial river of the Punjab, as Max Muller distinctly says that, "It was probably on the Vipash (later Vipasha), a north-western tributary of the Sutledge, that Alexander's army turned back. The river was then called Hyphasis; Pliny calls it Hypasis, a very fair approximation to the Vedic Vipash, which means 'unfettered '. Its modern name is "Bias or Bejah." (What Can India Teach Us?, p. 172, Edition 1883).

Moreover, if we bear in mind the celebrated and the oft-quoted verses (R.V. X, 75), it will certainly be easily perceived that the Poets of the Rig-Veda-period had, by all means, a wider geographical horizon than has usually been supposed and had, therefore, very accurate knowledge of the Land of the Seven Rivers.

Thus, to come nearer home, it seems evident that the Dawn also was like the rainwaters, first observed in her dazzling splendour in the region of the river Vipash – the modern Beeas – by our primitive ancestors, who had also seen her for the first time disappear and absorbed in the unsurpassed refulgence of the Sun that was coming on the horizon, in the region of that very river, flowing in Aryavarta.

Now, if the Primitive Fore-fathers of our Rig-Vedic ancestors had seen the first drops of water, or the showers of rain, dropping from the clouds, before everything else in the Land of the Seven Rivers, and nowhere in Central Asia, nor in Northern Europe, nor in the Arctic regions; if they were the first observers of the light or the Dawn in the region of Beeas (the Vipasha); and if, moreover, they had also seen the Sun for the first time, rising above the horizon in the region of this very river the Tipash of Aryavarta, and nowhere else; then, certainly, the natural inference is, that the Land of birth of our Primitive Ancestors was Aryavarta and Aryavarta only, and no other what-ever. As such, therefore, we are autochthonous in India, and not immigrants into the Land of the Seven Rivers."



[1] As between Indra and Vritra, the former is still the more ancient, (Vide ante p 43. R.V. IV, 30.1)