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Part Four. Other hymns

Hymn in Praise of Indra [1.5]


आ त्वेता॒ नि षी॑द॒तेन्द्र॑म॒भि प्र गा॑यत ।

सखा॑य॒: स्तोम॑वाहसः ॥

ā tu ā ita ni sīdata indram abhi pra gāyata

sakhāyaḥ stoma-vāhasaḥ

“But approach, but sit down, sing out towards Indra, O friends who bear the burden of the psalm.”

stoma. From stu to establish firmly. Stoma is the psalm, the hymn of praise; it is the expression in the potency of speech of those qualities in the Lord of Mental Force,– or whatever other Master of being is praised,– which the Sadhaka is either calling to his aid or aspires to bring out in his own being and activity. The expression of a quality in inspired and rhythmic speech tends by the essential nature of Mantra to bring forward and establish in habitual action that which was formerly latent or vague in the nature. For this reason the psalm is stoma, that which establishes or confirms, as the prayer is uktha, that which desires or wills, and the simple hymn is gāyatra, that which brings up and sets in motion, or śaṃsa, that which brings out into the field of expression.


पु॒रू॒तमं॑ पुरू॒णामीशा॑नं॒ वार्या॑णाम् ।

इन्द्रं॒ सोमे॒ सचा॑ सु॒ते ॥

puru-tamam purūṇām īśānam vāryāṇam

indram some sacā sute

“When the nectar has been distilled, then it is Indra I take for friends, the mightiest of all that is mighty, the lord of all highest desirable things.”

purūtamaṃ purūṇām Sayana’s far-fetched and violent gloss, “waster of many (foes), lord of many possessions”, is an entirely needless violation of the plain sense of the words. purūtamaṃ purūṇām can have only one meaning and grammatical connection, “most puru among all that are puru”, just as īśānam vāryānām means “master among all that is supreme” vārya may indeed mean “desirable”, very much in the underlying sense of vara, a boon but “supreme”, rather than “desirable” chimes with īśāna and suits the balance of the phrases.

sacā is accepted invariably by the grammarians as an adverb in the sense of “together” formed from root sac to adhere, to accompany. But is it certain that the word has no other sense in the Veda? The arrangement, if not the construction of the words in this line calls imperatively for a verb to connect indra with some sute. To read in pra gāyata abhi from the first Rik, is intolerably clumsy. Now in form sacā may be the Active imperative of sac – the singular would then be addressed to one of the company and replace...the collective plural of the first and fourth Riks – as sacasva is its imperative Middle; or it may be more naturally, if my suggestion in connection with pṛcchā (see Hymn 4) is accepted, the first person indicative present of the verb used in the Active Mood and with a transitive effect. If sacasva can mean “to consort with, always dwell with as a friend” (see Hymn 7), sacā in the Active may very well mean “I keep with me as a friend or comrade”. The sentence then becomes natural, straightforward and simple and the sense perfect and appropriate not only to the present verse, but to the preceding Rik and to the Rik that follows. It provides us with the perfect logical connection and transition which is a perpetual feature of the Vedic style. In the first verse the Rishi invites his “friends” or “life-companions” to sing the psalm of Indra; the second states the object and purpose of their singing which is to have this mighty and supreme Master of things as a friend,– the peculiar purpose of Madhuchchhandas as the acknowledged head of this group of sadhakas, yaste sakhibhya ā varam; the third justifies the choice of the forceful God by affirming Indra’s faithful friendship and his perfect helpfulness.


स घा॑ नो॒ योग॒ आ भु॑व॒त्स रा॒ये स पुरं॑ध्याम् ।

गम॒द्वाजे॑भि॒रा स नः॑ ॥

saḥ gha naḥ yoge ā bhuvat saḥ rāye saḥ puram-dhyām

gamat vājebhiḥ ā saḥ naḥ

“It was he that was ever present to us in the union (with our desire), he ever for our felicity, he ever in the holding of our city; ever he comes to us with gifts of substance (in his hands).”

The emphasis is on saḥ which is, therefore, repeated with each case of application, sa yoge, sa rāye, sa puraṃdhyām; and ghā serves to bring out the intention of the Rishi to emphasise the word. He is explaining why it is towards Indra, indramabhi, that the psalm must be upheld; for it is Indra that is there always in the getting of our desire, Indra always when felicity is the result of our active consciousness, Indra always when our getting and our felicity are attacked and our city has to be held against the Dasyus, the robbers, the foes. He comes to us always bringing fresh substance to our mental faculties, increased resources of mental force for our active consciousness. bhuvat, gamat – the habitual past, formed direct from the proper stem bhū, gam. I accept rāye as the usual dative, although I do not feel at all certain that we are not sometimes in the presence of a form rāyaḥ and this rāye like yoge and puraṃdhyām a locative.

yoga. The idea of Yoga in all its Vedic senses is the reaching out of the being in us to unite itself with being expressed in other persons, objects or forces, whether in the form of application of effort, contact of consciousness or acquisition of things desired.

puraṃdhyām. I can accept neither Sayana’s yoṣiti nor his bahuvidhāyām buddhau; his construction of purambahu with dhibuddhi is almost grotesque in its violence, pur is that which is filled or that which contains and protects, the city, the ādhāra, this nine-gated city of ours in which we guard our gettings and enjoy our felicity; dhiḥ is holding, supporting. Always attacked by spiritual enemies, Dasyus, Rakshasas, Daityas, Vritras, Panis, it has to be maintained and upheld by the strength of the gods, Indra first, Indra always, Indra foremost.


यस्य॑ सं॒स्थे न वृ॒ण्वते॒ हरी॑ स॒मत्सु॒ शत्र॑वः ।

तस्मा॒ इन्द्रा॑य गायत ॥

yasya sam-sthe na vṛṇvate harī iti samat-su śatravaḥ

tasmai indrāya gāyata

“Sing to that Indra whose steeds no foeman in our battles can withstand in the shock.”

saṃsthe. Sayana’s construction yasya rathe [yuktau] harī seems to me in the last degree forced and impossible. If saṃstha means ratha, and vṛṇvate means saṃbhajante, the only sense can be that Indra’s enemies in Indra’s chariot do not approve of his horse! We must find more possible sense for saṃstha. In connection with battles, it may well mean the meeting and locked struggle of his enemies, and vṛṇvate well having the sense which we find so often, of checking, obstructing or successfully opposing. When Indra and the enemy stand struggling together in the shock of battle, they cannot succeed in restraining the progress of his car; it forces always the obstacle and moves forward to its goal. The verse following on the ā bhuvat puraṃdhyām of the last Rik and ending in the resumption of the first idea closes appropriately in the word gāyata and with true Vedic perfection of the minutiae of style, the train of thought started by pra gāyata and brought out by indraṃ sacā.


सु॒त॒पाव्ने॑ सु॒ता इ॒मे शुच॑यो यन्ति वी॒तये॑ ।

सोमा॑सो॒ दध्या॑शिरः ॥

suta-pāvne sutāḥ ime śucayaḥ yanti vītaye

somāsaḥ dadhi-āśiraḥ

“Distilled for purification are these juices of the Soma; pure, they are spent for thy manifestation, able then to bear their own intensity.”

sutapāvne. somasya pānakartre, says Sayana, and he is well within his rights, for pāvan would undoubtedly be in later Sanskrit a noun of the agent and so taken in this passage, it makes good sense. “Here are these Somas distilled for the Soma drinker.” But, as European scholars have discovered, in the old Aryan tongue the dative ane was used verbally to express the action, no less than the agent, and appears disguised in the Greek infinitive nai, enai while the shorter form an dative or nominative appears as the ordinary Greek infinitive ein. Old Aryan asan for being remains in Greek as einai to be; dāvan for giving as dounai to give; bhuvan for becoming as phuein to become; śruvan for hearing as kluein to hear. Can we hold that this ancient Aryan form persists in the Veda, in such forms as pāvane, dāvane? The hypothesis is tenable. In that case, however, we should land ourselves in our passage in a piece of grotesque bathos, “these Soma-juices have been distilled for the purpose of drinking Soma”! If we have to accept the idea of drinking for  pāvan, Sayana’s interpretation is infinitely to be preferred. But although pāvan occurs to us naturally as of the same form as dāvan, by the addition of an to the root to drink, with the intercalary euphonious va which we find established in Tamil and surviving in Sanskrit forms like bruvan, stuve, yet pāvan may equally derive from the root to purify by modification of the root vowel, as in pāvaka and pāvan before the termination an. If we accept this account of sutapāvne, we get a deep and fruitful significance thoroughly in harmony with the subtle, suggestive and pregnant style of the hymns of Madhuchchhandas. The nectar juices are distilled for the primary process of purification of what has been distilled, sutapāvne; when they are purified, śucayaḥ, they then come into use yanti vītaye, because they are then dadhyāśiraḥ. The presence of the epithet śucayaḥ becomes at once intelligible; otherwise an ornate epithet, not without meaning, but not really needed, it becomes in this rendering a word of capital importance, logically accessory and indeed inevitable in the context, dadhyāśiraḥ, led up to naturally by śucayaḥ, and comes with equal inevitability as the climax of the sentence and the thought.

vītaye. Sayana says bhakṣaṇārthe, but he gives other significances also for gati-vyāpti-prajanana-kanti-asana-khādaneṣviti. In the sense of going, as in the familiar classical vīta, is sometimes the compound of vi + i to go, but the verb we have in vītaye is rather the long form of the primary root vi to manifest, open, shine, be born, appear, produce, grow, spread, extend, move, still surviving in vayas, viyat, vayunam. The rendering khādana strikes me as an additional sense forced upon it by the ceremonialists in order to bring this crucial Vedic term within the scope of their ritualistic conceptions. I take it, in the Veda, in its natural sense of manifestation, appearance, bringing out or expansion. The word vīti describes the capital process of Vedic Yoga, the manifestation for formation and activity of that which is in us Unmanifest, vague or inactive. It is vītaye or devavītaye, for manifestation of the gods or of the powers and activities which they represent that the Vedic sacrificer is initiated and conducted internally in subjective meditation and surrender, externally in objective worship and oblation. The Soma juices purified yanti vītaye go to manifest, are spent for manifestation,– in this case, as we see in the next verse vṛddho ajāyathāḥ,– of Indra, the god of the hymn, Master of mental force.

dadhi-āśiraḥ. This expression must either consist of two separate words dadhi and āśiraḥ wrongly combined in the Padapatha or it is a compound – as Sayana takes it – epithet, of somāsaḥ. In the first case, dadhi may mean curd and āśiraḥ milk, used in the plural to express several helpings of milk; we shall have then to translate ritualistically, “here are (Somas) distilled for the Soma drinker and here, purified, go Somas, curd and milks for eating.” Let those take it so who will and reconcile as they may its puerility with the loftiness of the verse that precedes and subtlety of the verse that follows. But it is clear from the construction and arrangement of words that dadhi-āśiraḥ is an epithet of somāsaḥ. Sayana’s explanation is too wonderfully complex for acceptation; nor can dadhi-āśiraḥ mean dadhi-āśira-yuktaḥ, one of the two factors in the compound may have a verbal force, the other of the governed substantive; nor in the older terms of Vedic language is there any insurmountable objection to the verb in the compound preceding the word it governs. dadhi will then be a verbal adjective formed by reduplication from dhi, cf. dadhiṣva, the adjective daddhi upholding, able to uphold and āśira a noun expressing devouring heat, force or intensity akin to the other Vedic word āśu more than once used adjectively in this sense by Madhuchchhandas. We get therefore the sense “able, being purified, to sustain the action of their own intensity”,– not, therefore, rapidly wasted so as to be unable to supply the basis of delight and force necessary for Indra’s action.


त्वं सु॒तस्य॑ पी॒तये॑ स॒द्यो वृ॒द्धो अ॑जायथाः ।

इन्द्र॒ ज्यैष्ठ्या॑य सुक्रतो ॥

tvam sutasya pītaye sadyaḥ vṛddhaḥ ajāyathāḥ

indra jyaiṣṭhyāya sukrato iti su-krato

“Thou for the drinking of the Soma-juice straightway onward didst appear increased, O Indra, for supremacy, O great in strength.”

ajāyathāḥ, didst appear; again the habitual past.

The idea of the verse follows in logical order on the suggestions in the last. The Rishi has devoted his four verses to the reasons he has to give for the preference of Indra and the hymning of Indra. He then proceeds to the offering of the Soma, the wine of immortality, Ananda materialised in the delight-filled vitality; it is first expressed in the terms of joy and vitality; it is next purified; purified it is spent in the putting out of mental force for the manifestation of divine Mind, Indra; Indra manifests at once, sadyaḥ... ajāyathāḥ, but he manifests increased; a greater mental force appears than has been experienced in the past stages of the Yoga or the life. Indra appears thus increased sutasya pītaye and jyaiṣṭhyāya, primarily for the drinking of the joy and vitality that has been distilled, secondarily, through and as a result of the taking up of that joy and vitality in the active mental consciousness for supremacy, jyaiṣṭhya, that is to say, for full manifestation of his force in that fullness in which he is always the leader of the divine war and king and greatest of the battling gods. Therefore is the appellation sukrato placed at the end in order to explain jyaiṣṭhyāya. The Lord of Mental Force is a very mighty god; therefore, when he appears in his fullness, it is always his force that takes the lead in our activity. We have in these two verses a succession of symbolic concepts in perfect logical order which express stage by stage the whole process of the divine manifestation in this lower material activity, devavīti, in Adhwara Yajna.


आ त्वा॑ विशन्त्वा॒शव॒: सोमा॑स इन्द्र गिर्वणः ।

शं ते॑ सन्तु॒ प्रचे॑तसे ॥

ā tvā viśantu āśavaḥ somāsaḥ indra girvaṇaḥ

śam te santu pra-cetase

“May the fiery Soma-juices enter into thee, O Indra, thou who hast delight in the Word; may they be peace to thee in thy forward-acting awareness.”

āśavaḥ vyāptimantaḥ, says Sayana; but the epithet is then inapposite, āśu like āśira means devouring, fiery, intense, impetuous, swift – cf. the senses of āśira, fire, the sun, a demon. The joy and vitality are to pervade the mental force and, because this is to be done in the force of the word, the mantras, giraḥ, therefore Indra is addressed as girvaṇaḥ, the word, besides, preparing after the fashion of Vedic interlinking the transition of the thought to the subject of the next verse.

pracetase. The epithet is not here merely ornamental or generally descriptive; if it were, the vocative would have been preferred. The use of the dative indicates clearly that pracetas is meant to express the condition in which the peace is desired. The most serious obstacle of the Sadhaka is the difficulty of combining action with a basis of calm; when intense force enters the system and is put out in activity, it brings eagerness, disturbance, trouble, and excitement of activity and exhaustion of relapse. There is aśānti, absence of śam. It is easy to avoid this when there is quietude and the Ananda is merely enjoyed, not utilised. But Indra, as mental force, has to be pracetas, consciously active, putting his consciousness forward in thought and action, he has to absorb the Soma-wine and lose nothing of its fire, yet preserve the peace of the liberated soul. The Soma-juices have to bring added peace with them to the active mind as well as an added force.


त्वां स्तोमा॑ अवीवृध॒न्त्वामु॒क्था श॑तक्रतो ।

त्वां व॑र्धन्तु नो॒ गिरः॑ ॥

tvām stomāḥ avīvṛdhan tvām ukthā śatakrato iti śata-krato

tvām vardhantu naḥ giraḥ

“Thee the hymns of praise have increased, thee, the hymns of prayer, O Indra of the hundred mights; thee may (let) our Words increase.”

avīvṛdhan. The habitual past. In the past and as a rule, praise of Indra and prayer to Indra have increased and increase the mental force; let the words also of this mantra now increase it.

giraḥ takes up the girvaṇaḥ of the last line. It is the mantra that has to make the Soma effective in increasing Indra. The thought, therefore, takes up the pra gāyata of the first Rik and applies it to the office which is asked of Indra, for which he has been given the Soma-wine, the general purpose of the invocatory chant and the utility of this divine increase in the fiery strength of the Soma offering.


अक्षि॑तोतिः सनेदि॒मं वाज॒मिन्द्र॑: सह॒स्रिण॑म् ।

यस्मि॒न्विश्वा॑नि॒ पौंस्या॑ ॥

akṣita-ūtiḥ sanet imam vājam indraḥ sahasriṇam

yasmin viśvāni pauṃsyā

“Unimpaired in his expansion may Indra safeguard this myriad wealth (of mind) on which all our strengths are established.”

akṣitotiḥ. The ritualistic interpretation of the ninth Rik is not unworth noting for its unadulterated clumsiness and unconvincing pointlessness. Sayana takes vājam in the sense of food and supposes it to allude to the Soma. “Let Indra,” he renders it, “whose protection is undamaged, enjoy this food thousand-numbered, in which food are all strengths.” Nothing is clear here except the working of a mind ignorant of the meaning of the text and compelled to hammer out a meaning in harmony with tradition and ritualistic prepossessions. In the light of the symbolic interpretation, the verse like every other becomes both in sense and construction simple, straightforward, logical, well-ordered and full of subtle purpose and consummate dexterity. ūtiḥ is expansion. Indra is supposed to have increased mental force in accordance with his experience, vṛddho ajāyathāḥ, avīvṛdhan, and in answer to the prayer tvāṃ vardhantu no giraḥ he is vṛddhaḥ; the Rishi prays that that increased mental force may remain unimpaired, akṣita, and that the Lord of the Force, thus preserved in the expansion of his power, may safeguard, preserve or keep safe, saned, this substance of mind, this rich mind-stuff full of the force of Indra, sahasriṇam, in which all human strengths repose for their effectiveness and stability.

saned. The group of words, sāḥ, sātiḥ, san, sanayaḥ, sanaḥ, saniḥ, sānasiḥ, are of great importance in the Veda. Sayana is not consistent in his interpretation of them. He applies to them his favourite ritualistic ideas of giving, favour, progeny, eating, etc. I attach to them invariably the sense of substance, permanence, safety, preservation, safeguarding. The basic sense of the roots of the sa family is substance, steadfastness, stability, solidity. sāḥ is the Greek sws, safe, sātiḥ the Greek sosis, safety, salvation, preservation san is the basis of the Latin sanus, sound, sane, in health which rests on the fundamental sense “well-preserved, safe from harm”, and of the Sanskrit sanat, sanā, sanāt, sanātanaḥ, perpetual, eternal, and sanayaḥ, saniḥ, sanaḥ, sānasiḥ are its derivatives in this fundamental significance. We shall find that this interpretation will illuminate the sense of every passage in which the words occur, need never be varied and never lead to either straining of sense or awkwardness of construction.

sahasram means “a thousand”; if that be its only significance, sahasriṇam must mean, myriad, thousandfold, infinitely numerous or varied. I am convinced, however, that sahasra meant originally as an adjective plentiful or forceful, or as a noun, plenty or force; sahasriṇam would then mean “abundantly plentiful” or “rich in force”. In any case, it describes well the myriad-shaped wealth of mind-stuff and mind-force which is the basis of all our masculine activities or practical masteries, yasmin viśvāni paunsyā. We may, if we choose, take the phrase to mean “wealth counted by thousands” of gold pieces or of cattle in which, says the Vedic Rishi, reside all forms of human strength and greatness. But I am not disposed to lend the sentiment of Mammon worship to men of an early age in which strength, skill and mental resource must have been the one source and protection of wealth and not, as falsely seems to be the fact in a plutocratic age, wealth the source and condition of the rest. The Vedic Rishis may have been primitive sages, but primitive savages did not hold sentiments of this kind; they valued strength and skill first, wealth only as the reward of strength and skill.


मा नो॒ मर्ता॑ अ॒भि द्रु॑हन्त॒नूना॑मिन्द्र गिर्वणः ।

ईशा॑नो यवया व॒धम् ॥

mā naḥ martāḥ abhi druhan tanūnām indra girvaṇaḥ

īśānaḥ yavaya vadham

“Let not mortal men (or, let not the slayers) do hurt to us, O Indra who delightest in the mantra; be the lord of our bodies and give us to ward off the stroke.”

martāḥ, Greek brotos, mortal. The Rishi has already prayed for protection of his spiritual gains against spiritual enemies; he now prays for the safety from human blows of the physical body. But I am inclined to think that martāḥ here has an active rather than a passive sense; for the termination ta may have either force. martāḥ undoubtedly means mortal in the Veda, but it is possible that it bears also the sense of slayer, smiter, deadly one like marta in the Latin mors, like the transitive sense in mortal, which means either subject to death or deadly. In any case I cannot follow Sayana in taking tanūnām as subject to abhi. I take it only set to īśānaḥ which is otherwise otiose and pointless in the sentence. The significant use of girvaṇaḥ indicates that the safety from mortal strokes is also claimed as a result of the Vedic mantra. “Let not those who would slay, do harm against us (abhi in our direction); do thou Indra, lord of mental force, in the strength of the mantra, govern our bodies and when the blow comes in our direction ward it off or enable us to ward it off (yavaya, causal).” The reference seems to me to be to that power of the mental force in which the Indian yogin has always believed, the power which, substituting a divine mental action for the passive helpless and vulnerable action of the body, protects the individual and turns away all attempts physical or otherwise to do him hurt. If I am right in my interpretation, we see the source of the Tantric idea of the stoma or stotra acting as a kavaca or mental armour around the body which keeps off the attacks of suffering, calamity, diseases, wounds or death. We may note that if martāḥ be slayers, tanūnām may be governed by martāḥ; “let not the slayers of the body do hurt towards us, O Indra who delightest in the mantra; govern them (our bodies with thy mental force) and give us to ward off the stroke.” But, in any case, whether we associate tanūnām with abhi or martāḥ or īśānaḥ, īśānaḥ must refer back to tanūnām. Sayana’s “ward off the blow, for thou canst”, is a pointless superfluity, one of those ideas which seem right and ingenious to the scholar, but would never suggest itself to the poet; least of all to a master of style like Madhuchchhandas.