VAIKUNTHA – The abode of Vishnu

Vaikuntha was the celestial abode of Vishnu. Vaikuntha literally means the “place of no hindrance.” In the Puranas, it was located variously—in heaven (svarga), north of the heavenly mountains (Himalaya), even on Mount Meru (Mahameru), the axis of the earth. Most commonly Vaikuntha was located on the southern slopes of Mahameru. It had streets of gold, buildings of jewels, and was graced by the celestial Ganga. For some sources it was identical with Goloka, the heaven of Krishna.

VADHRIMATI – A princess mentioned in the Rigveda

Princess Vadhrimati was married to a hermaphrodite. With the blessings of the Asivin brothers she received a son named Hiranyahasta. The story came from a time when gods had sons with princesses. In a slightly different version Vadhrimati was married to a eunuch. Despondent that she could not have a child, Vadhrimati prayed to the Asivini-devas, the divine twins, the physicians of the devas (gods); they happily fulfilled her desire. Hiranyahasta grew up a sage, possibly even a brahmin, since he married thedaughter of sage Matarisvan. Another version said he … Continue reading

VAC – A goddess

Vac means “word” and “song,” as well as being the name of an early Vedic god­dess. Vac refers to both speech and speech-consciousness. Vac enters into the seers (rishis). A Rigvedic hymn to Vac stated that all actions and powers were grounded in speech. It was the primordial energy out of which all existence originated and in which it subsisted. At the same time it claimed that Vac extended beyond the heavens and the earth. This was an example of an associative process that the hymnists were using what were … Continue reading

USHAS – A goddess

In Vedic mythology Ushas was the goddess of dawn and the herald of all that was connected with the advent of the sun, Surya, supreme ruler of the heavens. She announced Surya, who brought along with her, light to make the pas­tures fertile, horses, chariots, wealth, and plenitude. The mighty sun god seemed unapproachable to the Vedic worshipper because of his formidable luminance; Surya could not be directly viewed by ordinary mortal eyes. Ushas was approach­able in the light of early morning devotion and would lead mortals to the all­powerful … Continue reading

URVASI – An apsara (celestial nymph)

Urvasii’s story is unusual. She was an apsara, but instead of being born or created in heaven she was born from the thigh of a mortal. She resulted from a conflict between Indra and her father, the sage Narayana. It happened in this way. Narayana and Nara, sons of Dharma and grandsons of Brahma, were heating up the throne of Indra with their powerful austerities (tapas). Indra tried three ways to stop their acquisition of power: boons, fear of his show of power, and the temptation of his celestial beauties. … Continue reading

USHA – Daughter of Banasura and wife of Aniruddha

Usha was a daitya (demon) princess, daughter of Bana and granddaughter of Bali, both great asura (demon) rulers. Usha dreamed of the man she would wish to marry. Citralekha, a woman with this special siddhi (power), drew a picture of Aniruddha, grandson of Krishna, according to Usha’s dream. Then, Citralekha brought Aniruddha to the palace with her magic. When Aniruddha was brought to Usha’s room and saw his own picture, he fell in love with Usha. Bana or his preceptor immediately sensed Aniruddha’s presence and sent the palace guards to … Continue reading

TILOTTAMA – An apsara

Tilottama was an example of robotics, according to the modern Hindu idea that every form of knowledge, including modern science, can be found in the Vedas and Puranas. Tilottama had to be made from all the elements of beauty, animate and inanimate, to make a woman who would enchant two demons (asuras). Tilottama was put together by the divine architect, Visvakarman. Brahma had made his usual mistake and granted invincibility to the asuras Sunda and Upa- sunda. They needed to be tricked into fighting each other, as that was the … Continue reading

TARA – One of the five perfect women

The story of Tara illustrates the Puranic mentality of defaming its heroes and heroines, since some accounts make her a willing participant in adultery and others exonerate her and present her as one of the pancakanaya, five perfect women. Tara was married to the great sage Brihaspati and was unusually beautiful. Consequently Tara was abducted by Soma (or Candra, the moon), and that resulted in a war known as Taraka-maya. Rudra and the demons (asuras) were on one side with Soma, and Brihaspati and the gods (devas), led by Indra, … Continue reading

TAPA – A god with five fathers

Tapa was a deva (god) who was born of the tapas (austerities) of five sages: Kasyapa, Vasishtha, Pranaka, Cyavana, and Trivarcas. Hence, he was also known by the name Panca-janya (one born of five). He can be said to be the per­sonification of tapas. However, the Mahabharata added that Tapa had his own sons: Purandara, Ushman, Prajapati Manu, Shambhu, and Avasathya—all obscure enough. To these sons were added the five urjaskaras, five sons of sac­rifice, and the his final son—Parishranta, the exhausted sun. Tapa’s mother was not mentioned.