Rig Veda when translated means, “The knowledge of the verses”, it comprises of 1028 hymns and 10,600 verses in total. The verses are usually spoken and transmitted in oral manner and it was no different with Rig Veda. Rig Veda is oldest amongst Veda and it was handed over orally from 1500 B.C. but it was written only in 300 B.C. after other Hindu scriptures. The Hymns in it are dedicated to various deities still worshipped today in various parts of Asia. The article contains a short description of deities who have been glorified in hymns of Rig Veda.
The warrior god and king of gods have been given high priority in Rig Veda. The 289 Vedic hymns written in his glory portray him as a warrior god who slayed evil to liberate cows and rivers. He is often known as the god of rain by general masses and people still worship him for rain. He is portrayed as a bearer of Bajra who rides a great white elephant – Airavata.
The lord of fire, Agni occupies 218 hymns in 10 volumes of Rig Veda. He is represented as an important god because he would hinder or favor farmers based on the effort made by them to please him. Gods often ate through spirits living in the human and through sacrifices; sacrifices were considered useless without fire. Since the fire was used to offer sacrifices, he is considered a messenger between humans and gods. Other followers claim his presence in all three realms earth, atmosphere and sky, made him a messenger of God. He is not the only fire in its form but he is also the fire that powers lightning and Sun. Agni deva uses a Ram as is his Vahana.
The god of water, Varuna is another prominent god in Rig Veda, he is the Lord of the sea. He is the lord of natural law and order and oversees righteousness and justice through his thousand eyes. He rides a chariot pulled by swans in early pictures and late pics depict him riding a crocodile. He was a prominent deity in beginning but he granted Indra and Prajapati his positions. He has been dedicated 46 hymns in Rig Veda. He is considered guardian of the western direction in Vedas.
Vayu is often symbolized as a breath giver or Prana in many legends of Rig Veda. He is portrayed as a Gazelle riding powerful destroyer who made a lot of noise when he moved around. The 12 hymns dedicated to him in Vedas, describe his beauty. He holds title of lord of thoughts, beauty, and intelligence.
The literal translation of Surya in English means sun, Surya deva was called Surya and Savitri in Rig Veda. The word Vishnu was actually Surya Devas’ name in Vedic ages. Surya rides a chariot made from gold and seven horses and pulls it simultaneously. The sun god carries a high significance to date even though 8 Hymns were dedicated to him partly because the Gayatri Mantra was originally dedicated to him.
Yama is dedicated very few hymns in Rig Veda but he stands very tall amongst important gods from the Veda. Vedic hymns describe him as lord of justice and king of the dead who uses his mace and noose to punish or drag dead to his world. He supervises deeds performed by people and gives them appropriate punishment. He uses a heavenly buffalo as his Vahana. He also possesses two dogs who have four eyes and wide nostril; they guard the doorway to his world (Yamaloka).
There are other prominent deities and minor deities mentioned in Rig Vedic deities who are highly revered. The name of some other deities is provided below.
- Soma: He is known as the god of plants. Soma has also been used to signify the ritual drink
- Vishnu: He was considered to be in an inferior position to Indra, and therefore has the name Upendra.
- Dyaus: The father of heaven.
- Aditi: The goddess of eternity
- Ishvara: The supreme god of the Universe
- Asvins/Ashwinis/Ashwini Kumaras: The twins with healing powers.
- Maruts: The lords of storms and destruction.
- Rudra: Rudra is a primitive form of latter more prominent god Shiva.
- Mitra: The guardian god along with Varuna. He appears together with Indra.
- Saraswati: The goddess of the river along with the Yamuna in Rig Veda. Later, she became an independent deity after the river dried up. She is also popularly known as the goddess of Knowledge.
- Prajnya: The lord of rain.
- Manyu: The lord of war.