Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Maruts

The Maruts

If you have witnessed a heavy monsoon lashing in the Indian subcontinent, then you will agree it can be intimidating. As the clouds gather, they can darken the skies even in the middle of an afternoon. Then without a warning the rain bursts through the clouds, the huge drops pound the earth. Every now and then, the sky lights up to a crackle of lightening, accompanied by thunder. Children, reach out for their parents, seeking safety. In that moment, as you gaze outside, from the comfort of your modern home, you see neither sky nor earth. You know that the rain is good for you, your community, yet as the ferocity builds up, you can’t help but feel a slight sense of trepidation.
Now, take away the protection offered by modern technology and education and transport yourself to 3000 BC. How would you react to this onslaught? It is this kind of shock and awe that inspired ancients to metamorphose elements of nature into their Gods and Goddesses.
The God that caused the rain – he had to be extremely powerful, if he were to be the cause of an event so ferocious and fearful – was Rudra. The storm or rain became Maruts, his offsprings and the cloud that bears the storm or rain became the mother, and was called Prsni.
Hymn 66 of Mandala VI contains fascinating details of this metamorphosis. The entire hymn is dedicated to the Maruts.
RV 6.066.03
They who are Sons of the rain-pouring Rudra, whom the long-lasting One had power to foster:
The Mighty Ones whose germ great Mother Prsni is known to have received for man’s advantage.
Verse 3 makes it clear that Rudra, the “rain-pouring” God is the father of the Maruts and that Prsni is the mother. That rain is beneficial to man is obvious and hence Prsni bore the germ for the advantage of mankind, even though it is no mean feat to bear the impetuous Maruts. The composer of the hymn recognizes this and hence glorifies Prsni as “great Mother”.
RV 6.066.04
They shrink not from the birth; in this same manner still resting there they purge away reproaches.
When they have streamed forth, brilliant, at their pleasure, with their own splendour they bedew their bodies.
RV 6.066.07
No team of goats shall draw your car, O Maruts, no horse no charioteer be he who drives it.
Halting not, reinless, through the air it travels, speeding alone its paths through earth and heaven.
The impetuous nature of the Maruts is apparent in Verse 4 and Verse 7 – they stream forth, brilliant at their own pleasure. They travel through the air at their own will, “halting not”, speeding through earth and heaven. Neither goats nor horses can draw their chariot, not can a charioteer drive it.
The imagery in Verse 6 is unmistakable.
RV 6.066.06
When, strong in strength and armed with potent weapons, they had united well formed earth and heaven,
Rodasi stood among these furious Heroes like splendour shining with her native brightness.
The earth and heaven appear united, the effect of a thunderstorm, when the clouds cover both in impenetrable darkness. And the recurring crackle of lightening is metamorphosed into Goddess Rodasi, by her very nature “splendour shinning with her native brightness”.
Now let us examine how various natural phenomenon that accompany a rain-storm have been transformed or metamorphosed into characteristics or aspects of the Maruts.
RV 6.066.11
That swelling band I call with invocation, the brood of Rudra, armed with glittering lances.
Pure hymns are meet for that celestial army: like floods and mountains have the Strong Ones battled.
The Maruts are considered a celestial rather than a terrestrial army, given that rain originates from the skies. Glittering rain drops transmute into lances. The “swelling” band is an obvious reference to a protracted downpour.
Rv 6.048.20
May the kind excellence of him the Kind, loud Roarers! be our guide,
Be it the God’s, O Maruts, or a mortal man’s who worships, ye impetuous Ones!
RV 6.048.15
Bright as the host of Maruts mighty in their roar. May they bring Pusan free from foes;
May they bring hither hundreds, thousands for our men: may they bring hidden stores to light, and make wealth easy to be found.
They signal their arrival or presence by loud roaring of loud signing, an attribute transmuted from thunder.
RV 6.049.11
Ye who are youthful, wise, and meet for worship, come, Maruts, to the longing of the singer.
Coming, as erst to Angiras, O Heroes, ye animate and quicken e’en the desert.
As one would expect, they are able to animate even the desert, i.e. rain could bring a desert to life.

Relation with Pusan

RV 6.048.15
Bright as the host of Maruts mighty in their roar. May they bring Pusan free from foes;
May they bring hither hundreds, thousands for our men: may they bring hidden stores to light, and make wealth easy to be found.
RV 6.050.05
To whom the Goddess Rodasi clings closely, whom Pusan follows bringing ample bounty.
What time ye hear our call and come, O Maruts, upon your separate path all creatures tremble.
The two verse above suggest that the Maruts either bring Pusan to the worshipper or that Pusan follows the Maruts and brings ample bounty in his wake. Why? Because, Pusan is a pastoral deity, and a provider of pastures for grazing to the cattle, amongst other things. Can there be abundant pasture unless there is rain?

Maruts as accordant with Indra

RV 6.017.11
He dressed a hundred buffaloes, O Indra, for thee whom all accordant Maruts strengthen.
He, Pusan Visnu, poured forth three great vessels to him, the juice that cheers, that slaughters Vrtra.
RV 6.019.11
The Bull, whose strength hath waxed, whom Maruts follow, free-giving Indra, the Celestial Ruler,
Mighty, all-conquering, the victory-giver, him let us call to grant us new protection.
RV 6.040.05
Mayst thou, O Indra, on the day of trial, present or absent, wheresoe’er thou dwellest,
Thence, with thy team, accordant with the Maruts, Song-lover! guard our sacrifice, to help us.
Mandala VI has several verses that mention the Maruts being accordant with Indra or following Indra. No further details are available on the specific relation between them.

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