Pūṣan, Kṛṣṇa and the Āṅgirasas-Part 3
Part 3: Kṛṣṇa, Ekānaṃśā and the Aṅgirasas
In the previous post, the second in the series, we had discussed the development of Kṛṣṇa in the later texts and saw that the newly introduced pastoral dimension to his character in the Harivamśa and Bhāgavata could be linked to Pūṣan’s own pastoral character in the Rg Veda. We ended that post with certain observations about Sańkarṣaṇa and his similarities with Pūṣan. Perhaps, it would be appropriate to end this series by discussing the third member of the Vṛṣṇi triad, Ekānaṃśā, the sister of Kṛṣṇa and Sańkarṣaṇa. Let us start with Pūṣan by whose inspiration this series was begun.
Two peculiar verses about Pūṣan occurs in RV 6.55:
pūṣaṇaṃ nvajāśvamupa stoṣāma vājinam |
svasuryo jāra ucyate || RV 6.55.4
“Pūṣan, of the goat-steed, we praise; the mighty one
His sister’s lover as he is known”
māturdidhiṣumabravaṃ svasurjāraḥ śṛṇotu naḥ |
bhrātendrasya sakhā mama || RV 6.55.5
His mother’s suitor I speak to, his sister’s lover; may he hear us
Brother of Indra and my friend
One way of understanding the reference to Pūṣan being his mother’s suitor is to understand Sūryā as the mother. RV 6.58.4b says that Sūryā was given by the gods to Pūṣan, indicating a possible conjugal relationship between the two.
yaṃ devāso adaduḥ sūryāyai kāmena kṛtaṃ tavasaṃ svañcam || RV 6.58.4b
However, another hymn from the late book ten, RV 10.85 which relates the account of Sūryā’s wedding, states that Sūryā was wooed by the Aśvinau and in verse 14 says that Pūṣan chose the Aśvinau as his father. Some have thus argued that this makes Sūryā a mother-figure with respect to Pūṣan. Leaving these interpretations aside, it is worthy to note the mother-wife and sister-wife tropes in both Vaidika and Paurānika sources. For instance, Ambika is known as the sister of Rudra (Taittiriya Samhita) but also as the wife of Rudra in Mahā-Nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad. In the case of Viṣṇu, the Veda tells us that Aditi is his consort but Aditi is the mother of Viṣṇu when he incarnates as Vāmana and Devaki is mentioned in later sources as Aditi incarnate.
In the Harivamśa narrative, a female figure, with a similarly ambiguous relationship with her brothers, is featured. The female child who is famously remembered for being dashed against the prison walls by Kamsa is Ekānaṃśā, the goddess worshipped by the Vārṣṇeya and Andhaka clans.
Some may have heard of the renowned Durgā Stuti from Virata Parva of Mahābhārata which occurs in the southern (Kumbhakonam) recension.
vaiśampāyana uvāca .
virāṭanagaraṁ ramyaṁ gacchamānō yudhiṣṭhiraḥ .
astuvanmanasā dēvīṁdurgāṁ tribhuvanēśvarīm .. 1 ..
yaśōdāgarbhasambhūtāṁ nārāyaṇavarapriyām .
nandagōpakulē jātāṁ maṅgalyāṁ kulavardhanīm .. 2 ..
kaṁsavidrāvaṇakarīmasurāṇāṁ kṣayankarīm .
śilātaṭavinikṣiptāmākāśaṁ prati gāminīm .. 3 ..
vāsudēvasya bhaginīṁdivyamālyavibhūṣitām .
divyāmbaradharāṁ dēvīṁkhaṅgakhēṭakadhāriṇīm .. 4 ..
bhārāvataraṇē puṇyē yē smaranti sadā śivām .
tānvai tārayatē pāpātpaṅkē gāmiva durbalām .. 5 ..
stōtuṁ pracakramē bhūyō vividhaiḥ stōtrasambhavaiḥ .
āmantrya darśanākāṅkṣī rājā dēvīṁsahānujaḥ .. 6 ..
namōstu varadē kṛṣṇē kumāri brahmacāriṇi .
bālārkasadṛśākārē pūrṇacandranibhānanē .. 7 ..
caturbhujē caturvakrē pīnaśrōṇipayōdharē .
mayūrapicchavalayē kēyūrāṅgadadhāriṇi .. 8 ..
bhāsi dēvi yathā padmā nārāyaṇaparigrahaḥ .
svarūpaṁ brahmacaryaṁ ca viśadaṁ tava khēcari .. 9 ..Mbh 4.8.1-9
The two terms indicating the dual relationship are highlighted in bold in the above passage. On one hand, the goddess is known as vāsudēvasya bhaginīṁ, that is, the sister of vāsudēva. But later in the same passage, she is called, nārāyaṇa parigrahaḥ.
In the Harivamśa too, the same dynamics can be seen.
evameṣā hitārthāya lokānāṃ kṛṣṇavartmanā |
dhriyate sevanīyā hi patyeva ca pativratā ||1-50-34
Yoganidrā, who indeed incarnates in the womb of Devaki, is compared to a chaste wife in the above verse since she is supported by Nārāyaṇa in the same way a faithful wife is supported by her husband. In another chapter, she seems to be represented in a manner similar to Śrī.
dadṛśustāḥ striyo madhye bhaginīṃ rāmakṛṣṇayoḥ |
rukmapadmavyagrakarāṃ striyaṃ padmālayāmiva || 2.101.18
“The women (of the various Yādava clans) saw the sister (bhaginī: Ekānaṃśā) between Rāma (Balarāma) and Kṛṣṇa. Holding radiant lotuses in her hands, she was the woman of the lotus-dwelling.”
Ekānaṃśā has a Āṅgirasa connection as well. In the Mahābhārata, Vana-parva, there occurs a few chapters relating the Āṅgirasa mythos, a seething reminder that the deification of the Āṅgirasa clan which began in the Rg-Veda had continued into the Mahābhārata as well. The following passage lists the daughters of Aṅgirasa.
brahmaṇo yastṛtīyastu putraḥ kurukulodvaha |
tasyāpavasutā bhāryā prajāstasyāpi me śṛṇu || 3.208.1
bṛhajjyotirbṛhatkīrtirbṛhadbrahmā bṛhanmanāḥ |
bṛhanmantro bṛhadbhāsastathā rājanbṛhaspatiḥ || 3.208.2
prajāsu tāsu sarvāsu rūpeṇāpratimābhavat |
devī bhānumatī nāma prathamāṅgirasaḥ sutā || 3.208.3
bhūtānāmeva sarveṣāṃ yasyāṃ rāgastadābhavat |
rāgādrāgeti yāmāhurdvitīyāṅgirasaḥ sutā || 3.208.4
yāṃ kapardisutāmāhurdṛśyādṛśyeti dehinaḥ |
tanutvātsā sinīvālī tṛtīyāṅgirasaḥ sutā || 3.208.5
paśyatyarciṣmatī bhābhirhavirbhiśca haviṣmatī |
ṣaṣṭhīmaṅgirasaḥ kanyāṃ puṇyāmāhurhaviṣmatīm || 3.208.6
mahāmakheṣvāṅgirasī dīptimatsu mahāmatī |
mahāmatīti vikhyātā saptamī kathyate sutā || 3.208.7
yāṃ tu dṛṣṭvā bhagavatīṃ janaḥ kuhukuhāyate |
ekānaṃśeti yāmāhuḥ kuhūmaṅgirasaḥ sutām || 3.208.8
Note that Kuhu is addressed as Ekānaṃśā and also as the seventh daughter of Aṅgirasa. At this point, as we reach the conclusion of our study, it would be easier to numerically list and summarize the various disparate strands linking Ekānaṃśā, Kṛṣṇa, the Āṅgirasas and Pūṣan in a rather complex quadrangle.
- In the Harivamśa, Yoganidrā (Ekānaṃśā) is tasked to transfer Sańkarṣaṇa from Devakī’s womb to that of Rōhiṇī. The group of goddesses-Anumati, Rākā, Sinīvālī and Kuhu (who is known as Ekānaṃśā)-are involved in the process of conception as explained in a Brāhmaṇa passage of the Taittirīya Saṃhitā
dévikā nír vapet prajā́kāmaś chándāṁsi vái dévikāś chándāṁsīva khálu vái
prajā́ś chándobhir evā́smai prajā́ḥ prá janayati
prathamáṃ dhātā́raṃ karoti mithunī́ evá téna karoty ánv evā́smā ánumatir
manyate rāté rākā́ prá sinīvalī́ janayati prajā́sv evá prájātāsu kuhvā̀ vā́caṃ dadhāti
He who desires offspring should offer (the oblations to) the goddesses; the goddesses are the metres, offspring are as it were the metres; verily by the metres he produces offspring for him. He makes Dhātr first; verily he produces pairing with him, Anumati gives approval to him, Rākā gives, Sinīvālī produces, and in offspring when produced by Kuhu he places speech.
Sinīvālī in particular is described as placing the embryo in the womb in RV 10.184.2a (garbhaṃ dhehi Sinīvāli). At any rate, it seems that Ekānaṃśā in the Harivamśa was constructed to have a functional equivalence to this group of goddesses, who are treated as the daughters of Aṅgirasa not only in the above Mahābhārata passage but also other sources (Bhāgavatam 4.1.34, Viṣṇu 1.10.7)
- Two observations can be made about the connexion between this group of goddesses, Pūṣan and Viṣṇu- Kṛṣṇa. Firstly, an observation can be made about a linkage between Pūṣan and the goddesses indirectly via Revatī. This had been discussed by the Āryottama in a much earlier post. To briefly summarize, in the aśvamēdha, Pūṣan is worshipped before the horse is set free to wander free for a year. As per the āśvalāyana śrauta sutra (10.6), two iṣṭis are to be performed to Agni mūrdhanvān and Pūṣan. As the Ārya notes, in the puruṣamēdha, this ritual was replaced by one directed towards three goddesses: Anumati, Pathyā Svasti (Revatī), Aditī, as noted by the śrauta sutras of śāṅkhāyana 16.10.11 (atha anumataye pathyāyai svastaye aditaya iti saṃvatsaram havīṃṣi) and vaitāna 37.20 (saṃvatsaram iṣṭayaḥ pathyāyai svastaye adityā anumataye). Note the presence of Revatī as Pathyā Svasti who is the consort of Pūṣan as discussed in the 2nd part of this series.
- The second observation would be with respect to the relationship between Dhātr and Pūṣan. These two gods, although lacking a direct relationship, seem to be invoked together in various contexts.
saṃ vaḥ siñcantu marutaḥ / sam pūṣā sam dhātā / sam indraḥ sam brhaspatiḥ /
sam vo ‘yam agniḥ siñcatu / prajayā ca dhanena ca / āyusmantam kṛṇota mā / Kathaka samhitā 35.3
brūmó deváṃ savitā́raṃ dhātā́ram utá pūṣáṇam |
tváṣṭāram agriyáṃ brūmas té no muñcantv áṃhasaḥ || AV Śaunaka 11.6.3
dhātā pūṣā bṛhaspatir / bhūmyās samajīm akran /
kṛṣiṃ devās svarvidaḥ / kalyāṇī subhageva yā / AV Paippalāda 12.6.6
mediṃ dhātā mediṃ pūṣā/ medim indro dadhātu me AV Paippalāda 20.29.6
Though there was no functional similarity or a mythical connexion, the relationship between the two deities did not go unnoticed. In the, Śāntiparva of the Mahābhārata, a peculiar discussion about the use of punishment/violence takes place and how even among the deities, those who use punishment/violence receive greater respect. This very interesting passage has been discussed by the Ārya as well and interested readers may refer to it here. The point to be noted is that, Dhātr and Pūṣan are grouped together with Brahma as deities of peaceful disposition who therefore do not receive much worship as the others, who inspire greater fear.
etān devān namasyanti pratāpa praṇatā janāḥ
na brahmāṇaṃ na dhātāraṃ na pūṣāṇaṃ kathaṃ cana Mbh 12.15.18
To be noted together with this fact is that, Sinīvālī is represented as the consort of Viṣṇu in AV (Śaunaka) 7.46.3 (víṣṇoḥ patni) and as the consort of Dhātr in Bhāgavatam 6.18.3, along with Rākā, Sinīvālī and Kuhu. Also, note that Viṣṇu, Dhātr and Sinīvālī are invoked together in RV 10.184 in the context of conception.
- As for the relationship between Kṛṣṇa and the Āṅgirasas, the most well-known textual element in this respect would be the passage from the chāndōgya upaniṣad (3.17.6), where a certain Kṛṣṇa Devakīputra receives instruction from Ghora Āṅgirasa. The similarities between the vidya as taught by Ghora Āṅgirasa and the thought of Kṛṣṇa are for another post. Apart from this, there is a statement from the Karna Parva of the Mahābhārata where Kṛṣṇa states the following,
atharvāṅgirasī hyeṣā śrutīnāmuttamā śrutiḥ
avicāryaiva kāryaiṣā śreyaḥkāmairnaraiḥ sadā Mbh 8.49.69
This statement occurs when Yudhiṣṭhira insults Arjuna by saying that he should give his gāṇḍiva to someone else (i.e. more competent than Arjuna himself) and the latter had taken an oath to slay anyone who says thus. Kṛṣṇa resolves the conflict by arguing that Arjuna can uphold his vow to slay the offender by addressing him disrespectfully as disrespect from a younger person to an elder is tantamount to killing. In support of that argument, he cites the śrutī of the Atharvāṅgirasas.
Finally, it was a Āṅgirasa who initiated the two brothers (Kṛṣṇa and Sańkarṣaṇa) with upanayana as noted in several texts.
vṛṣṇīnām andhakānāṃ ca gurur gārgyo mahātapāḥ /
brahmacārī purā bhūtvā na sma dārān sa vindati // Harivamśa 85.7
Gārgya is stated to be guru for the vṛṣṇīs and andhakas indicating that there may have been a special relationship between this group of Āṅgirasas and the Yādava clans.
gargaś ca gokule tatra vasudevapracoditaḥ /
pracchanna eva gopānāṃ saṃskārāna karottayoḥ // Viṣṇu purāṇa 5.6.8, Brahma 184.29
With this, we have come to the conclusion of the series. The series was never intended to be an exhaustive look into the origins of the Kṛṣṇa narrative, which would require greater time and energy than I can afford at the present moment. However, it raises a few questions about how Kṛṣṇa as well as associated figures, Sańkarṣaṇa and Ekānaṃśā, may have developed within a Āṅgirasa-led framework. We can draw from various sources such as the Bhāradvāja hymns on Pūṣan, vaidika, paurāṇika and itihāsika texts to establish a Āṅgirasa contribution to the myth-building around Kṛṣṇa and others. I do hope, though, to discuss the possible origins of Kṛṣṇa’s teachings in the gīta as well as other parts of the itihāsa.