Rains must have seemed like magic to the ancient man. This mystical wonder attached to the rains is still true today. However, during the time of the Vedas, awe and reverence was also attached to every element of nature. This included not only the sun, moon and the stars but also the very earth, water in all its forms including the rain, as well as the wind and all kinds of plant and animal life. The munis and rishis stressed on treating nature and one’s environment with total reverence worthy of worship. There evolved hymns therefore in honor of every element of nature. One will therefore find prayers honoring rain in different Hindu scriptures. These include the Vedas as well as the Upanishads and the Gita.
Rains initially were manifestations of the gods. Later on the Vedic man worshipped the rains and even invoked the rain gods in times of drought and dry spells. The yajnyas are perhaps not performed with the regularity they were in the Vedic times. However, it is essential to know why the ancient Hindu looked at the rains with awe and reverence in the times of the Vedas and thereafter. This knowledge is essential to help return us to a world where there was a healthy respect for nature, the environment and all living beings.
In the Beginning
In The Concept of Water in Rig Veda, Dr Chandni Saxena (www.indianresearchjournals.com) writes about the origin of the universe. The paper speaks about the time when
- There was neither non-existence nor existence
- There was neither the realm of space nor sky which is beyond
- What stirred and where?
- In whose protection?
- Was there water that was bottomless in depth?
- The darkness that prevailed was hidden by darkness in the beginning.
- There was no distinguishing sign and all this was water.
- The life force was covered with the emptiness of water.
- This is when The One arose through the power of heat.
The above lines from Nasadiya Sukta in the 129th hymn of the 10th mandala of the Rig Veda according to the author “speak of the speculations by the seers of the Rig Veda times about the Creation of the Universe.”
“Before the Creation of the Universe, there was said to be nothing but the bottomless, uninterrupted, limitless water”. The world is spoken in the words of Salilam apraketam in Rig Veda X.29.3, as having been “originally water without light”. Further, “this concept of Rig Veda about the Creation of Life is surprisingly compatible with the current understanding of the origin of life on earth”.
As with the seers from the times of Rig Veda, “modern science too has not solved the puzzle about how water came to possess the first egg from which life sprang. However, water is an essential component of inorganic mixtures from which chemists, in their quest to understand the origin of life, attempt to produce complex organic molecules”. The fact that water was the omnipresent element in Rig Veda bears well with the societies that existed even before, that practiced spiritual veneration of water. While King Menes of Egypt diverted Nile to establish Memphis, his capital, Hammurabi around 1760 BC drew up the earliest man-made laws for the “regulation, distribution and maintenance of irrigation structures”.
In “Divine, Panacean and Emancipative Water in Vedic Religion” by Rohana Seneviratne, University of Oxford, the well known Vedic hymn propounding the divinity of water is
Ya Apaodivya Ut Va Sravanti Khanitrima ut va yah swayamjah |
Samudrartha Yah Shuchayah pavakasta Apao Devirih Mamvantu ||
Dr Chandni Saxena has paraphrased the above hymn as “The water which is created in the universe, the water which flows in the form of river etc., the water which comes from the digging of the wells, canals etc, the water which is self created in the form of waterfalls etc which enters into the ocean and who is pure and full of light, who is full of divine characteristics, help me in this world and be received by me”.
The divinity of water is further strengthened in the Vedic verse:
Yasam Raja Varuno Yati Madhyai Satyanrite Avapashyanje yajnanam|
Madhushchutah Shuchaye yah pavakah ta Apao devirih mamvantu|| VII.49.3
“The waters which are sent to the middle of the universe by King Varuna after checking the true and untrue (deeds) of human beings, the water which distills sweetness, full of light and is the great purifier, who is full of diving values, such water help me in this world and be received by me”.
The Two Forms of Water
The Vedas stressed on the two forms of water. These were its celestial and terrestrial forms. Both forms are destined to merge in the ocean. “Water is the mother of Agni and is therefore, the producer of fire. The world moves with the pure and simple movement of the water. It washes away the impurities and also cleans the inconsistencies of human behavior”.
There are two controls over water too in the Rig Veda. While Indra is known as the liberator of waters, Varuna is assigned the role of the regulator of all such waters as well as “causing the rains to come down” (Dr Chandni Saxena in The Concept of Water in Rig Veda). There is a third player too in the form of Parjanya, clouds that cause the water to pour. Parjanya is also deified in Rig Veda and spoken of thus “then winds are blown, lightning strikes, vegetation sprouts and grows.. And the earth becomes capable for the welfare of the whole world”. Further, Parjanya “is responsible for all the medicines, vegetations and other life-supporting objects on earth”. There is a doubt in some among the learned that Parjanya is another name for Indra.
The Powerful Role of Indra
In Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic by W J Wilkins (1900) Chapter VII on The Storm Deities it is Indra who has the exalted and enviable position among the gods along with Agni and Surya. Indra “obtained supremacy over the other gods; and if we may judge from the number of hymns addressed to him in the Vedas, he was the most popular deity”.
Indra is described as “the god of the firmament, in whose hands are the thunder and the lightning, at whose command the refreshing showers fall to render the earth fruitful”. It has to be borne in mind that India then as now, used to be at the mercy of the sun for months on end. During this period, the earth would become parched and hard and therefore, impossible for the farmers then to till the soil before sowing the seeds. Indra was therefore addressed frequently and “appealed to, and the most laudatory songs… addressed to him”. To the Vedic man Indra was seen as the powerful god who would vanquish “the clouds that the winds brought from the ocean (and who) were enemies who held their treasures in their fast embrace until, conquered by Indra, they were forced to pour them upon the parched soil”. “in answer to the cry of his worshippers, the genial rains descended, and the earth was thereby changed from a desert to a garden, songs of thanksgiving and praise, couched in the strongest terms, were addressed to him. The attributes ascribed to him refer principally to his physical superiority, and the blessings sought from him are chiefly of a physical rather than a spiritual character”.
Paeans to Rain
In Divine, Panacean and Emancipative Water in Vedic Religion by Rohana Seneviratne there is an excerpt from the Chandogya Upanishad 18 in which an insight is offered detailing a more scientific and logical approach to the importance of water.
āpo vāvānnād bhūyasyaḥ | tasmād yadā suvṛṣṭir na bhavati vyādhīyante prāṇā annaṃ kanīyo bhaviṣyatīti | atha yadā suvṛṣṭir bhavaty ānandinaḥprāṇā bhavanty annaṃ bahu bhaviṣyatīti | āpa evemā mūrtā yeyaṃ pṛthivī yad antarikṣaṃ yad dyaur yat parvatā yad devamanuṣyā yat paśavaś ca vayāṃsi ca tṛṇavanaspatayaḥ śvāpadāny ākīṭapataṅgapipīlakam | āpa evemā mūrtāḥ | apa upāssveti |
“Water is greater than food. Therefore, if there is not sufficient rain, living beings fail from fear that there will be less food. But if there is sufficient rain, they become happy because there will be much food. This water, by assuming different forms, becomes this earth, sky, heaven, mountains, gods and men, cattle, birds, herbs and trees, all beasts down to worms, midges, and ants. Water itself assumes all these forms. Meditate on water”.
The significance of rain is brought out clearly along with the singular role of Indra by W J Wilkins, (1900) in Chapter VII of Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic in The Storm Deities
“Indra, after singing the praises of the Soma juice, drinks the proffered cup, and as a result, is most graciously disposed towards the worshippers, ready to give whatever they ask”.
“When thus strengthened by the draught, he goes forth to meet the great enemy he came to conquer. This enemy is Vritra (Drought). And in the conflict and victory are seen the peculiar blessings to the earth and man that Indra is able to grant”.
Vritra (drought) is thus described:—
“He whose magic powers
From earth withhold the genial showers;
Of mortal men the foe malign,
And rival of the race divine;
Whose demon hosts from age to age
With Indra war unceasing wage;
Who, times unnumbered crushed and slain,
Is ever newly born again,
And evermore renews the strife
In which again he forfeits life”.
“The battle is described at length; in which we have a graphic description of the commencement of the rainy season, with the severe thunderstorms which usually accompany this change of the seasons. At last the conflict is over:
And soon the knell of Vritra's doom
Was sounded by the clang and boom
Of Indra's iron shower.
Pierced, cloven, crushed, with horrid yell,
The dying demon headlong fell
Down from his cloud-built tower."
As a result of the victory of the god, the rains descend and the earth is made fruitful”.
The role of gods such as Indra is clear then. The Vedas exhorted the farmers to sing praise of Indra in his fight to overcome drought and force the clouds to yield its bounties in terms of rain. The fight is uneven since Indra is in possession of Vajra and other potent armaments that are more than adequate to overcome the demon drought. In another section in the Vedas Parjanya is sought to be praised since “he splits the trees; he destroys the Rakshasas (cloud demons who withhold the rains)”. “The whole creation is afraid of his mighty stroke; even the innocent man flees before the vigorous god, when Parjanya thundering smites the evildoers” and then again “Parjanya charges the clouds with rain. The winds blow, the lightnings fall, the plants shoot up, the heaven fructifies; food is produced for all created things when Parjanya thundering replenishes the earth with moisture” and therefore “raise aloft thy vast water-vessel, and pour down showers; let the discharged rivulets roll on forward, moisten the heaven and earth with fatness; let there be well-filled drinking places for the cows”.
Vedic Rituals to Bring Rain
During Vedic times, rituals were performed to bring about rainfall. As a matter of fact, such yagnyas are still performed in India. In “Causing rain with ancient Vedic rituals”(http://niceartlife.com/causing-rain-with-ancient-vedic-rituals/ ) the entire ritual is described in graphic detail.
Here one of the most popular verses from Vedic scriptures, quoted by the modern Hindus in support of the faith of causing rain with Vedic rituals, is from Bhagavad Gita. Lord Krishna has pointed out the “virtues of performing yagna or worship according to the Vedic injunctions and the demerits incurred by ignoring the Vedic prohibitions and failing to perform yagnya”.
Annaad-bhavanti bhuutaani parjanyaad-anna sambhavah,
yagnyaad-bhavati parjanyo yagnyah karma samudbhavah
The above has been paraphrased by Kumara Vaisnava Sampradaya Kesava, Kasmiri, thus:
“All beings have evolved from and waxed strong from foods. Production of food is dependent on rain and rain is dependent on yagna which is dependent upon the activities performed by the Brahmins as prescribed in the Vedas. This is the chanting of Vedic mantras by Brahmins and their offering the oblations such as ghee or clarified butter and seed-grain such as sesame into the sacred fire”
“In Manu Samhita III.76 it has been presented in another way: the oblations offered into the fire ascend to the sun, from the sun come clouds and rain, from rainfall food is grown and from food beings come into existence”.
The Power of Yagnya in Bringing about Rain
In “Causing rain with ancient Vedic rituals” there are some excellent photographs provided by Indranil Mukherjee that clearly indicate the manner in which the yagnya was performed by priests in 2008 at Tirupathi.
The description of the yagnya refers to the ritual being performed by an adhyaryu priest with several other priests known as hotar and udgatar playing “a major role, next to their dozen helpers, by reciting or singing Vedic verses”. The ground is composed of one or three fires in the center with a variety of items being offered. Some of these items include large quantities of “ghee, milk, grains, cakes or soma”.
Depending upon the type of the yagnya it can last from a few minutes to the duration of years “with priests continuously offering to the gods accompanied with sacred verses. Some yagnyas are performed privately, others with a large number of people in attendance”.
The Mysticism that is Rain
A fair amount of research has been carried out in modern times to establish the similarity between the modern method of cloud seeding and the Vedic ritual of Yagnya to bring about the precipitation of rainfall. While both methods are probabilistic in nature, there appears to be adequate proof to establish the practicality of performing yagnya during the Vedic times.
In “Do Vedic Yajnas really produce rain?” (http://vch.hubpages.com/hub/Do-vedic-yajnas-really-produce-rain) both the procedures were studied in detail and the results analyzed impartially. It was concluded that “the procedure of performing such (Vedic) rituals is elaborate and stipulate animal sacrifice. A typical Yagnya is a ritualistic sacrifice endowed by spirituality of mind. It consists of, in its simplistic form, an altar within which the sacred fire is placed (usually ignited naturally using dried leaves and wood without use of matches or lighter) and oblations/offerings are offered into such fire as the Hotar and priest recite the Vedic mantras prescribed”. In the yagnya performed in Tirupathi in 2008 to obtain rain “and rain it did to such as extent that the Chief Minister of the State of Andhra Pradesh, India attributed the rains to the yagnya”.
The Rain Maker from the USA
In “Do Vedic Yajnas really produce rain?” the author writes about an example in “1915, (when) a gentleman by the name of Charles Hatfield stumped everyone in the city of San Diego, CA by announcing that he would get rid of the horrendous drought that seized San Diego in 1915, by making it rain. He used the rainmaking apparatus details about which he kept to himself”. He took the apparatus to the mountains of Moreno reservoir and mixed a concoction of some chemicals (which he did not reveal) and…” soon vaporous fumes went up into the cloudless sky”.
“The next morning, it started raining and the rains did not let up until a week went by. He carried out similar procedures elsewhere in the country soon after the fame and accomplishment spread, some with successes repeated and some resulting in failures”.
The Similarity between Modern Cloud-Seeding and Vedic Ritual
The author of “Do Vedic Yajnas really produce rain?” states that “Cloud seeding means adding chemicals to clouds to induce or increase precipitation. The silver iodide changes the composition of ultra-cold water in the clouds, turning the liquid into snow or ice, which then falls to the ground”.
Similar to the modern method “the Vedic yagnyas also involved releasing a chemical composition into the air in an effort to induce rain fall. Of course, the chemicals released in a yagnya were derived by organic compounds concocted using carbohydrates, protein and fat burnt in fire and wood; but whether such released chemicals are identical to chemicals released in cloud seeding or of those released by Charles Hatfield is not known to me”. The author finally states “However, in light of such recent scientific developments in the area of chemically induced rain making, it is not hard to believe that the Vedic Yagnyas performed since the ancient past are also reasonably successful in producing rain”. Further, in “Causing rain with ancient Vedic Rituals” quoted above, the author also postulates that the chemicals released due to the yagnya probably bring about an effect in the atmosphere that is similar in nature to that achieved in modern times by cloud seeding or, we might add, by Charles Hatfield in San Diego in 1915. It is therefore necessary to go back to our ancient scriptures and remember Lord Krishna’s revelations to Arjuna that life is born from food and food is produced by rain while rain is produced by performing yagnya.
In “Hydrology in Ancient India” http://www.nih.ernet.in/rbis/vedic.htm the author quotes Varahamihira in Vraht Sanhita (550 AD)
Dandhaymanayshu charachayshu godhoombhootastvabha nishkramantee
Ya ya oordhva mastraynayrita vai tastastvabhamyagnivayucha.
Ato dhoomagnivatanam sanyogstavamuchyatay
Vareeni varshteetyabhrambhrasyeshah sahastradrik.
“After being heated by sun, water contained in most of the materials on earth gets converted to smoke (vapour) and ascends to sky with the air and subsequently gets converted to cloud. Thus the combination of smoke, fire and air is the cause of cloud formation. These clouds cause rainfall under the guidance of Lord Indra, having thousand eyes”.
Practicality of Vedic Man
It is therefore seen from the above that the Vedic man looked upon rains and water for his parched fields, as the result of activities of Indra and Varuna. He had to pray to these gods so that they remained favorable to him and his activities. In times of drought he would need to seek the help of Hindu priests who would perform yagnyas so that any deficit in rainfall would be made up and normalcy would return. In Divine, Panacean and Emancipative Water in Vedic Religion, Rohana Seneviratne affirms that “Vedic attitude towards water should not be considered to have overly and instinctively been deferential. The Rig Veda hymns also obviously reveal how Vedic communities experienced the harsh aftermath of water’s over abundance in their surroundings”.
Therefore, once adequate rainfall had already taken place, in the prayer to Parjanya in Rig Veda 5.83.10 he asks “to stop rain after having poured down enough of it as aforementioned”. The Vedic Aryan was therefore humble enough to pray for “an undisturbed life after having a substantial rainfall”.
The Vedas were essentially practical guidelines to the common man. These early scriptures commanded man to be friendly towards nature in general and the elements in particular. Each of the elements was deified so that man would be humble towards super humans with superior powers. Therefore, in the case of the rains, the Vedic Aryan had to pray to the concerned gods Indra, Varuna and Parjanya so that his fields would not remain parched and there would be adequate food on his table for the family. It was this humility that gave him the vision to view rains with a sense of awe and mysticism.