by Jayaram V
The vedic deities are not only forces of nature, but also forces that exist in
the physical body and help the individual in his spiritual progress to overcome
certain impediments. Symbolic significance of the Vedic deities is discussed in
detail by Shri Aurobindo in his book entitled, "The Secret of the Vedas." The views
expressed here are based upon his interpretation.
According to Shri Aurobindo, one should not consider the vedic imagery as mere
imagery. The gods, goddesses and the demons mentioned in the Vedas represent various
cosmic powers. They play a significant role in the drama of creation not only in
the external world but in the inner world of a human being.
When a person is making spiritual progress it is imperative that he has to ensure
the development of these godheads in him also so that the required spiritual perfection
is attained at all levels. The gods have to be strengthened and the demons have
to be slain in order to attain perfection at all levels- "in the wideness of the
earth, our physical being and consciousness"
According to the key provided by Shri Aurobindo, the outer form of a Vedic ritual
has an inner corresponding ritual. A ritual is a sacrifice, an attempt to fulfill
the purpose of creation, to elevate the status of man to that of a godhead or a
In such a ritual at the inner level, Agni is the divine spark in man, the inner
soul. The ghee or the clarified butter that is offered to him is the mind. The sacrificial
food or annam, consisting of grains, seeds etc, stands for the physical body which
is but an altered state of annam or food only.
Once the divine spark (Agni) is invoked, he wakes up the latent energies or divine
powers hidden in man, (the various gods and goddesses), to share the fruits of the
sacrifice and assist the individual, (the performer of the sacrifice), in his spiritual
awakening, transformation, purification and evolution.
The symbolic significance of the Vedic gods is further explained from here on.
Indra is the awakened mind or the illumined mind, who in the mythology appears as
the lord of the heavens and exists in the body as the Lord of the senses, one who
has attained control over his senses. Vrata the snake demon, whom he slays in order
to release the waters for the people of earth, is the dark mentality, the mass of
negative and ignorant consciousness which hides all the cows( the rays of Truth)
in the caves of panis or sense-driven life.
The Rudras and the Maruts are the positive forces which aid Indra in his fight
against evil forces. The Ribhus are the seasons, which stand for the various stages
or phases through which a person has to undergo the process of spiritual progress.
Once the senses are controlled and the mind is stabilized through slaying of
all the dark powers, comes the awakening, the goddess of Usha, who brings along
with her Ashwins into the world of inner consciousness. These Ashwins are the horses,
the spiritual energies that enable the individual to make a swift progress towards
After Ushas appear Aditi, the Primal Sun, the God of Light, first as Savitr,who
represents the Divine grace essential for all spiritual success, and then as Mitra,
who as the Divine love is considered as a friend of the illumined mind(Indra)and
his associates (the other gods.
After the Sun of Truth, appear Ritha (Truth in Action) and Ritachit (Truth consciousness.
The various Goddesses also appear at this stage, Ila (Goddess of Truth vision),
Saraswathi (Goddess of knowledge and wisdom), Sarama (the intuitive mind) and Dakshina
(goddess of discernment and and ability).
The Vedic Yagna is therefore an act of supreme sacrifice, if performed well at
the spiritual level would lead to enlightenment and salvation.
Suggested Further Reading