Goddess of Dawn and Shining
|Mantra||Oṁ Uṣase Namaḥ|
|Siblings||Ratri, Nindra, Chandra|
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Ushas (Vedic Sanskrit: उषस् / uṣás) is a Vedic goddess of dawn in Hinduism. She repeatedly appears in the Rigvedic hymns, states David Kinsley, where she is "consistently identified with dawn, revealing herself with the daily coming of light to the world, driving away oppressive darkness, chasing away evil demons, rousing all life, setting all things in motion, sending everyone off to do their duties". She is the life of all living creatures, the impeller of action and breath, the foe of chaos and confusion, the auspicious arouser of cosmic and moral order called the Ṛta in Hinduism.
Ushas is the most exalted goddess in the Rig Veda, but not as important or central as the three male Vedic deities Agni, Soma and Indra. She is on par with other major male Vedic deities. She is portrayed as a beautifully adorned young woman riding in a golden chariot or a hundred chariots, drawn by golden red horses or cows, on her path across the sky, making way for the Vedic sun god Surya. Some of the most beautiful hymns in the Vedas are dedicated to her. Her sister is Ratri, or the night.
Vedic uṣás is derived from the word uṣá which means "dawn". This word comes from Proto-Indo-Iranian *Hušā́s ("ušā" in Avestan), which in turn is from Proto-Indo-European *h₂éusōs ("dawn"), and is related to "ēṓs" in Greek and "aušrà" in Lithuanian. It is also the basis for the word "east" in Indo-European traditions, state Mallory and Adams.
Uṣás is an s-stem, i.e. the genitive case is uṣásas, whereby it connotes "dawn goddess" in Indo-European languages. Ushas is related to the Proto-Indo-European goddess *h₂ausos-. Her cognates in other Indo-European pantheons include the Greek goddess Eos, the Roman goddess Aurora, the Lithuanian goddess Ausrine, and the English goddess Ēostre (OE: ēastre), whose name is probably the root of the modern English word "Easter." A non-Indo-European example, but still closely related, is the Japanese goddess Uzume.
Ushas is the prominent goddess of dawn in the Vedas. She is depicted as the one who imbues life to all beings, as the "life of all life" and "breath of all breaths", according to Jones and Ryan. She is revered as the deity who revivifies earth each day, drives away the chaos and the darkness, sets all things in motion, sends all living beings to do their duties in the Vedas.
Ushas is the most important goddess in the Vedic literature, but she is not as important as the three central male deities named Agni, Soma and Indra. She is mentioned in far fewer hymns than these three, but nearly equal or more number of hymns than all other male and female deities in the Vedas.
Ushas is mentioned in numerous hymns of the Rigveda. Forty of its hymns are dedicated to her, while her name appears in other additional hymns. She is thanked for and petitioned for driving away darkness in hymns 7.78, 6.64 and 10.172; bringer of light urged by Surya in hymn 3.61, and the chaser of evil demons in hymn 8.47. The Rigvedic hymn 1.48 describes her as drawn in a hundred chariots, revealed by the daily arrival of light, one who sets all motion to life and all life to motion, rousing people off to their duties. She is revered for giving strength in hymn 1.44, to Ṛta in hymn 3.61 and 7.75, and participating in daily restoration of order and fighting chaotic forces that threaten the world in hymn 1.113.
Ushas is described in Vedic texts as riding in a shining chariot drawn by golden-red horses or cows, a beautiful maiden bedecked with jewels, smiling and irresistibly attractive, who brings cheer to all those who gaze upon her. She dispels darkness, reveals treasures and truths that have been hidden, illuminates the world as it is. Hymn 6.64 associates her with wealth and light, while hymn 1.92 calls her the "mother of cows" and one, who like a cow, gives to the benefit of all people. Hymn 1.113 calls her "mother of the gods", while hymn 7.81 states her to be the mother of all living beings who petition her. She is the goddess of the hearth, states hymn 6.64. She symbolizes reality, is a marker of time and a reminder to all that "life is limited on earth". She sees everything as it is, and she is the eye of the gods, according to hymns 7.75–77.
She is variously mentioned as the sister of Ratri (night), Aditya and one who goes about her ways closely with deities Savitri and Surya. She is also associated with Varuna (sky, water) and Agni (fire).
- úd u śriyá uṣáso rócamānā ásthur apā́ṃ nórmáyo rúśantaḥ
kr̥ṇóti víśvā supáthā sugā́ny ábhūd u vásvī dákṣiṇā maghónī
- bhadrā́ dadr̥kṣa urviyā́ ví bhāsy út te śocír bhānávo dyā́m apaptan
āvír vákṣaḥ kr̥ṇuṣe śumbʰámānóṣo devi rócamānā máhobhiḥ
- The radiant Dawns have risen up for glory, in their white splendour like the waves of waters.
She maketh paths all easy, fair to travel, and, rich, hath shown herself benign and friendly.
- We see that thou art good: far shines thy lustre; thy beams, thy splendours have flown up to heaven.
Decking thyself, thou makest bare thy bosom, shining in majesty, thou Goddess Morning.
In the "family books" of the Rig Veda (e.g. RV 6.64.5), Ushas is the divine daughter—a divó duhitâ —of Dyaus Pita ("Sky Father"). This is taken literally in the traditional genealogies of Hindu mythology.
According to Sri Aurobindo, Ushas is "the medium of the awakening, the activity and the growth of the other gods; she is the first condition of the Vedic realisation. By her increasing illumination the whole nature of man is clarified; through her [mankind] arrives at the Truth, through her he enjoys [Truth's] beatitude."
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- Witzel, Michael (2005). Vala and Iwato: The Myth of the Hidden Sun in India, Japan, and beyond (PDF).
- David Kinsley (1988). Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. University of California Press. pp. 6–8. ISBN 978-0-520-90883-3.
- Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin. p. 433. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
- "Usha Suktam - A Vedic Eulogy to the Goddess of Dawn".
- George M. Williams (2008). Handbook of Hindu Mythology. Oxford University Press. pp. 287–288. ISBN 978-0-19-533261-2.
- David Kinsley (1988). Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. University of California Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-520-90883-3.
- The Rig Veda, Mandala 6, Hymn 64, Ralph T.H. Griffith, Wikisource
- Sri Aurobindo (1995), Secret of the Veda, Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, ISBN 0-914955-19-5, p. 283.