Symbolism of Rain in Hinduism

Rain in the countryside

by Jayaram V

Vedic people considered rains a gift from gods. For them rains were the oblations the gods poured into the sacrifice of life in return for the oblations and offerings they received from them during the sacrifices. It is how gods repaid their debt to the humans for the food they received from them as the offerings. This essay is about the archetypal meaning, cultural significance and symbolism of rain (varsham) in Hinduism

In Hinduism rains (varsha) signify life, renewal, devotion, love, sorrow, rebirth, compassion, difficulties in life, and the power of the heavens to mold life upon earth according to the will of God. Rains descend from sky to impregnate the earth and facilitate renewal of life, fertility, cultivation of lands, abundance of cattle and food grains, and the journey of streams, rivers and rivulets to join the oceans. Rain is an aspect of Nature, and one of its modifications, which bring cheer as well as sadness in the mortal world according to the fate of the world and the play of gods.

The Vedic hymns leave no doubt that rains are a gift from the heaven, sent by gods to nourish the earth so that they can receive the offerings of food from the humans in return. It is a symbiotic relationship. Gods send down rains to facilitate good harvest and wealth of cattle, which in turn help the humans to perform sacrifices and make offerings of food to gods. If gods are happy and well fed through sacrificial offerings, they will ensure that rains will fall in time and contribute to good harvest, abundance, progeny, and cattle. As a seasonal activity, timely rains indicate the order and regularity of the world (rta) and harmony between the earth and the heaven. On the other hand, scanty rains or excess rains denote the displeasure of gods and a broken communication between them and humans.

For the Vedic Indians who believed in a three tier world of the earth, the mid-region, and the heaven, rains and related phenomena such as the gathering of clouds, lightning, thunder, winds were the clear physical evidence of the presence of gods in the higher world. Gods like Indra, Varuna, Soma, Agni, Vayu, Maruts, Rudras enacted a divine drama in the sky to assure the beings upon earth that their sacrifices and prayers were heard and appreciated. It was through sounds, light, and rains that they communicated with beings, expressing their gratitude for the sacrificial offerings they received. If the earth was Mother Goddess and the sky was Father God, the rains provided the divine seed from which life germinated and Nature flourished.

In literature rains signify the flow of emotions, and negative states of mind. The tears are the rains drops that fall from the eyes that are filled with the clouds of sadness. Both positive emotions such as compassion, love, devotion, happiness and negative emotions such as anger, rage, envy, and fear rain down from the eyes of the people and even those of gods according to their positive and negative qualities that arise from the triple gunas.

A rain drop that falls from the heavens is compared to the individual soul that enters the phenomenal world to become an embodied soul. The Vedas do declare that the souls that go to the ancestral world at the time of death return to the earth after exhausting their karmas through rains to take rebirth. The law of karma suggests that scanty rains or torrential rains that destroy crops and cause natural calamities signify divine retribution or wrath of gods due to the misdeed of people and the negative collective karma that accrues because of them. However, it can be redressed by seeking divine intervention through prayers, rituals, and good deeds. Rains are thus linked to the law of karma as well as the process of rebirth.

Indra is the god of rains. Often he shows his displeasure by sending down torrents of rains, assisted by the gods of storms, tempests, and gusty winds, unleashing floods and deluges. Rains are associated with the three primary process of existence, namely creation, preservation, and dissolution. Life upon earth begins with rains. Life is sustained and replenished by the water that falls upon the earth and becomes part of the rivers, lakes, and oceans. It is also believed that at the end of the time cycle, heavy rains will set in motion the end times causing a great deluge to submerge the earth.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Translate the Page