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Open letter to science editors

 

KRONOS Vol VII, No. 3

Brhaspati

ROGER ASHTON

Copyright (C) 1982 by Roger Ashton

In India, the name of the planet or substar Jupiter has, for more than two millennia, been Brhaspati.(1) Brhaspati is also one of the gods of the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hindu India. A link between this god and the actual cosmic object Jupiter has been noted by A. A. MacDonell, who wrote that

"Brhaspati . . . in post-Vedic literature . . . is regarded as the regent of the planet Jupiter".(2)

This implies the perception of an association between the attributes of the god and the cosmic object that shared the same name, Brhaspati.

Brhaspati-Purohit, that is, Jupiter-Priest, is an epithet of the Vedic god Indra.(3) A trail of association thus leads from the planet or substar Jupiter to the god Indra.

Bhargava's English to Hindi Dictionary translates Jupiter not only as Brhaspati Graha, or the planet Jupiter, but also as Indra Devta, or the god Indra.(4) At the time of the Alexandrian invasion of India, the Greeks seem to have seen this same association. The Indologist Heinrich Zimmer wrote that "the invaders identified Indra with their own Zeus".(5) In Roman mythology, Zeus is called Jove or Jupiter.(6)

Both of the latter identifications tend to equate Indra, the Vedic god, to Brhaspati, the Vedic god whose name is shared with that of the cosmic object Jupiter. These direct identifications are strengthened by the fact that Brhaspati and Indra, as gods, share identical exploits and features.

In the RGVEDA, "He who fixed fast and firm the earth that staggered . . . He . . . is Indra".(7) But elsewhere in the same work, "Him who hath propped earth's ends . . . [is] Brhaspati".(8) Likewise, just as he "Who . . . drove the kine forth from the cave of Vala . . . He . . . is Indra",(9) so also he who "destroyed obstructive Vala.... [and] thundering drave forth the cattle" is Brhaspati.(10) This thundering is also one of such frequently repeated epithets of Indra as expressed by "Crusher of forts . . . Indra, the Thunderer".(11) Virtually identical epithets of Brhaspati are expressed in "Slaying his enemies, breaks down their castles . . . Brhaspati with lightning strikes down the foeman".(12)

There are two hymns in the RGVEDA in which, in the narration of their exploits, the names of Brhaspati and Indra alternate and are interchangeable.(13) In one of these, the two names are interchangeable also with the name Brahmanaspati, which is an alternative version of Brhaspati.(14)

In the SATAPATHA BRAHMANA, a book of ritual consequent upon the RGVEDA, Brhaspati and Indra both "won Prajapati" and "ascended to that upper region".(15) This is in an extended passage wherein no other gods are mentioned.* The parallelism equates Brhaspati and Indra rather firmly, as in the other instances already cited. In the ATHARVAVEDA, there is a hymn in which Indra is called "Indra-Brahmanaspati" .(16) This is the same as Indra-Brhaspati, or Indra-Jupiter.

It would appear that the direct identifications, parallel characters and exploits, and compound name cited here are sufficient to establish that, although Brhaspati and Indra are often mentioned together as if they were separate but allied entities,(17) they are one and the same entity. It would seem reasonable to conjecture that, where they are mentioned together as if separate, differing tribal traditions have been incompletely amalgamated.

Without regard to what the characters and exploits of Brhaspati and Indra might mean in terms of origin from any objective phenomenon, a comparison of these items has indicated that Brhaspati and Indra are doubles of each other. They are manifestations, like Zeus and Jove, of one and the same entity. If this entity is both the god and the planet or substar Jupiter, then just as the substar has long been called Brhaspati, so may it with equal warrant be called Indra.

* A projected future essay will be able to show that through shared names and parallel characters, Prajapati is one of the Vedic gods connected to Saturn. - RA [Also see KRONOS VII:2, pp. 34-36. - LMG]

REFERENCES

1. V. S. Apte, The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary (Delhi, 1965), p. 704; Bhargava's Standard Illustrated Dictionary of the Hindi Language (Hindi-English Edition), (Varanasi, U. P., India, 1960), p. 796.
2. A. A. MacDonell, Vedic Mythology (Delhi, 1974), p. 103.
3. Apte, loc. cit.
4. Bhargava's Standard Illustrated Dictionary of the English Language (Anglo-Hindi Edition), (Varanasi, U. P., India, 1963).
5. H. Zimmer, Philosophies of India (Princeton, 1967), p. 504.
6. Gods and Heroes of the Creeks: The Library of Apollodorus, trans. by Michael Simpson (Amherst, 1976), p. 9.
7. Hymns of the Rgveda, trans. by Ralph T. H. Griffith (Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, Varanasi, U. P., India, 1963), Vol. I, p. 273, RV II.12.2
8. Ibid, p. 453, RV IV.50.1.
9. Ibid., p. 273, RV II.12.3.
10. Ibid., p. 454, RV IV.50.5.
11. Ibid., p. 14, RV I.11.4.
12. Ibid., p. 645, RV VI.73.2, 3.
13. Ibid., Vol. II, pp. 91, 92, RV VII.97; Vol.II, pp. 478, 479, RV X.67.
14. Ibid, Vol. II, pp. 91, 92, RV VII.97.
15. The Satapatha Brahmana, trans. by Julius Eggeling (Delhi, 1966), Vol. III, pp. 2, 3, SB V.1.1.4,6.
16. Hymns of the Atharvaveda, trans. by Maurice Bloomfield (Delhi, 1973), p. 163, AV VI.45.
17. E.g., Rgveda, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 246, RV VIII.85.15.

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