VISVAKARMAN, VISVAKARMA – The celestial architect

Visvakarman (omnificent) may originally have been an epithet for any powerful god, but it was used in the Rigveda most often for Indra and Surya. There are two Rigvedic hymns to Visvakarman praising him as the all-seeing god, the one who names the gods, and that one beyond the comprehension of mortals. He was said to be the sacrifice and the one to whom the sacrifice is given. The Nirukta added that Visvakarma, son of Bhuvana, held a sarva-medha (total sacrifice) offering something of everything and ending with himself. In … Continue reading

VISHNU – One of the three major gods of modern Hinduism

Vishnu rose from a minor role as a solar deity in the Rigveda to one of the Hindu Triad with Brahma and Siva to the Absolute of the universe in Vaishnavism. Vishnu’s willingness to incarnate in time of need to restore righteousness (dharma) was the inspiring theme that made him both absolute and a compas­sionate giver of grace (prasada). Vishnu in the Rigveda was but a minor godling, whose solar activity of mov­ing through the three regions of the universe may well have been another’s func­tion. He was Indra’s friend … Continue reading

VEDAS – The Scripture

Veda means “knowledge,” but specifically refers to the eternal wisdom of the four collections of hymns, sacrificial rituals, and Vayu, the wind, shown riding his vahana, the antelope other sacred texts that are called (TRIP) the Vedas. Along with the four collections (the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas, and the Upanishads), two more bodies of literature, the Sutras and the Vedangas, are sometimes included in the Vedas. The Vedas are said not to be composed by human hand (apaurusheya). Tradition teaches that they have always existed, and myth accounts for … Continue reading

VAYU – A deva (god)

Vayu was the Vedic wind god. He fought alongside Indra and the Maruts (gods of storm) in defeating Vritra, the storm demon who held back the celes­tial waters. He was a charioteer of enormous power. Vayu would be connected in the Upanishads with breath of life (prana). By the time of the Puranas, how­ever, Vayu was reduced to one of the eight Dikpalakas (guardians of the directions) of the universe.

VARUNA – A god (deva)

Varuna was one of the oldest of the Vedic deities. Varuna may have been part of the first triad of gods known in the Vedic period—along with Mitra and Arya- man. A little later but still within the early Vedic period, they were replaced by Agni, Indra, and Surya. Varuna was both an asura (demon) and a deva, leading to the notion that Varuna, ancient lord of justice (rita) and truth (satya), had a violent streak. There were accusations in the later myths that this violence was why Indra took … Continue reading

VARNA – A concept

Varna means “color”; it refers to a ideal system of four classes or groupings of society—the so-called caste system. Both these idealized classes and the current jati (birth) system of several thousand endogamous groups are translated by the word caste, which probably came into English from Portuguese. Surprisingly, the real caste system of jati and its world of marriage and occupation laws are not referenced in Hindu mythology. It is the ideal caste system of the four varnas that is noticed: the brahmana (brahmins), the priests; the rajanya (ksatriyas), a … Continue reading


Third of the ten incarnations of Vishnu, as Varaha, the wild boar In the Padma Purana the world order had again been disrupted. The fierce asura (demon) Hiranyaksha had gained a boon (vara) of invincibility. With his provi­sional immortality, he stormed around the three regions of the universe wanting to fight and kill the gods. He became bored when he could do no more evil, so hedragged Bhimi-devi, the earth, to the bottom of the cosmic ocean. Svayambhuva- Manu and Siatarupa, the future parents of humanity, and the gods asked … Continue reading

VAMANA – The fifth of the ten incarnations of Vishnu

Vamana was the dwarf incarnation (avatara) of Vishnu. The myth utilized the device of deceit, or outwitting the opponent, even though the struggle was between the supreme god Vishnu and a demon (asura) named Bali. Although an avatara was required to restore the proper order and return righteousness to the world, Bali exhibited such high ethical qualities that some may be confused about which party was the example of righteousness. Bali (also known as Mahabali) had obtained a boon (vara) of invincibility and (conditional) immortality from Brahma, so he could … Continue reading

VALMIKI – A very famous sage and the author of the Ramayana

There are no authentic records about Valmiki’s parentage. The popular version considered him to be the tenth son of Varuna, god of the sea. Valmiki was considered to be the first poet. There is an interesting story about the earlier part of Valmiki’s life. He began this life as a hunter named Rat- nakra who looked after his family in the forest by hunting for animals—but also by robbing travelers. One day he happened to see the saptarishis (seven sages), who warned him about the consequences of his sins and … Continue reading