Monthly Archives: Mar 2012

Petal, pistil, petrichor.

Veda is never “proven” via chemistry or physics, but scripture and science are so far apart in the popular mind, it dazzles people when a researcher objectively demonstrates a spiritual concept. Yet our science against Veda is only the echo of a strong, true word. We hear the weak and dying sound, and begin to remember, like briefly stirring from a dream. This is why I look to Veda, and let slip away the school-learning that used to shape my thoughts.

Still, once in a while some piece of knowledge surfaces, and when I caught the faint fragrance of wet earth in the afternoon, it pulled a memory. The inimitable aroma that seeps up from dry ground at the rain. Mitti is the attar of this divine scent in India. The unusually poetic technical term is petrichor, stone ichor, nectar of earth.

In drought, plants secrete oils to slow growth, self-preservation as oils that soak into the soil. At the first touch of moisture, the volatile oils are released, reborn as a sort of territorial signal; they essentially clear a no-sprout zone, keeping other plants from invading the newly-enlivened earth. Beauty in the struggle for survival, like birdsongs reverberating from nests and branches. As if the growing things whisper, Not here, elsewhere while they soak up the precious drops. Petrichor as fast and feast, and war.

No laboratory can duplicate these astonishing connections. And science cannot recreate the wonder. And nothing “rain” scented ever smells right. But the intertwining of water and earth in Veda is always magical. I search, and read; the praise is of Soma, but the scent of rain seems twined in the words: We solicit from you, O Divine Waters, that pure, faultless, rain-shedding, sweet essence of the earth…

The rain, with its dark clouds and dazzling flashes, bathes the entire earth with its splendour.

I was thinking of this today while I walked, and found it vaguely interesting to remember war and rain together in the personality of Indra, and to consider the strange poetry in the earth warming with fragrance at the rain, like a delicate shiver of delight tinged with fear.

I lay my heart before the lord praised as Ambudeśvara, yet almost never can bring myself to ask for his most obvious gift. How could I begin to comprehend even a small part of the swirling, rushing, enmeshing embraces of winds and waters and warmth on this earth, much less ask for them, as if I perfectly understood the effects of that request? When even a single hint of scent in the rain brings such astonishment to this foolish mind?

I feel that whoever interpreted this verse (quoted as originating in Ṛgveda I.6?) has either a different copy of the text than I do, or has more poetry within them than I have read in other translations. But it is beautiful, and suits my thoughts today.

“Nature’s beauty is an art of God.
Let us feel the touch of God’s invisible hands in everything beautiful.
By the first touch of His hand rivers throb and ripple.
When He smiles the sun shines, the moon glimmers, the stars twinkle, the flowers bloom.
By the first rays of the rising sun, the universe is stirred;
the shining gold is sprinkled on the smiling buds of rose;
the fragrant air is filled with sweet melodies of singing birds.”

(Updated 27 October 2012, to add an interesting article about petrichor that may be found here.)

© Arjunī and ridiculously reverent. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Arjunī and ridiculously reverent with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Amazement with Aurobindo.

There are some folks whose prolific, brilliant accomplishments make me ashamed to be considered part of their species. Śrī Aurobindo is certainly one of these.

An actual post from me is forthcoming, but in the meantime, two brief quotes from this giant of Veda and verse.

“Indra arising gazed from the heights of his mental realms and the moonbeams surprising flowed on him out of the regions immortal; their nectar slowly mixed with the scattered roses of dawn and mastered us wholly.”
–from The Descent of Ahana

Ṛgveda III.46, Aurobindo’s translation:
“Very noble are the heroic deeds of mighty Indra, the thunderer, the bearer of the Word, warrior and powerful emperor, the ever young god resplendent, imperishable and possessor of tranquil strength.
O Great, O Puissant, thou art great; by the action of thy expansive power forcefully wrest from others the wealth we desire. Thou art one, king of all that is visible in the whole universe; inspire man in the battle; establish him in the abode of peace, worthy of conquest.
Indra manifesting himself as radiance crosses all measures of the universe surpassing even the gods in every way and infinitely he becomes inaccessible to them. This power that drives straight, by his strength in the mental world, surpasses the wide material universe and the great vital world.
Into this wide and deep, violent and powerful from his very birth, all-manifesting ocean-like Indra, the ordainer of all thoughts, enter the intoxicating universal currents of delight like fast-flowing rivers issuing from the mouth of the mental world.
O puissant Indra, for the satisfaction of thy desire, the mental world and the material universe hold this wine of felicity as a mother holds the unborn child. The priest who accomplishes the sacrifice is for thy sake only, O Bull; he drives the flow of delight so that thou mayst drink it; he refines that delight for thy sake only.”

Such a difference that an excellent English rendering, made with respect and understanding, can make! Having only read this hymn through Griffith’s translation before, I see the two versions now like night and day.

A question I have long had: I know that the respectful, correct way to cite Vedic verse is by recalling the ṛṣi, devatā, and chandas of the hymn. But from what I’ve seen so far, all of the online translations omit information on the Seer and Metre, telling only the Deva(s) praised.

Does anyone know of a website, or an available print source, that gives this information? (Edit: Please see the comments to this post, for some responses!)

© Arjunī and ridiculously reverent. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Arjunī and ridiculously reverent with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Proto-Gītā”: The Bāṣkalamantra Upaniṣad.

Last edited 4 January 2018.

“The identification of Indra with the first principle takes the form of an almost monotheistic hymn, in which Indra reveals his divine nature with his own mouth. That hymn is comparable with Kṛṣṇa’s self-revelation in the Bhagavadgītā.”
–Dr. Mislav Ježić

The Bāṣkalamantra Upaniṣad is of the Ṛgveda, a later Upaniṣad which, for many years, was lost in its original form and only known by a Persian edition later translated into Latin. A Sanskrit manuscript was (re-)discovered by Friedrich Schrader in 1908, and I am unsure if the work remained unknown until 1956, when Jean Renou translated it from the Sanskrit into French. The most recent scholarship on this verse comes from Dr. Mislav Ježić, a Croatian professor who has written several analyses of the Bāṣkalamantra as it relates to later Hindu thought, including a work (Rgvedske upanišadi) discussing the Aitareya, Kauśītāki, and Bāṣkalamantra Upaniṣads together.

Unfortunately for me, I haven’t been able to find any available in-print sources for this Upaniṣad, in any tongue. All that I know, from Internet resources, is offered in this post.

This 25-verse Upaniṣad begins with an event alluded to in Ṛgveda VIII.2.40, when Indra speaks, “Shaped as a Ram, stone-hurler, I once camest hither to the son of Kaṇva, wise Medhyātithi.” The reference is also made in the Subrahmaṇyā invocation of the Somayajña, in the call to Indra as the “Ram of Medhātithi.”

The Bāṣkalamantra may be a minor work to both Sanskrit scholars and modern Hindus, but for me, it holds weighty significance because of Indra’s declaration of Himself as the Supreme. For months I have known this work only in small snippets, but thanks to a French-language website on the Upaniṣads, I now have a full translation to offer.

First, here are some useful links:
–The original Sanskrit text is available online from the TITUS Project, at this link.
–The website offering the Upaniṣads in French was Les-108-Upanishads, now unfortunately offline.

An English interpretation of Martine Buttex’s French translation is given below the cut.

(Necessary disclaimer: I have only two years of French study, and relied heavily on translation and dictionary programs to check words and phrases; I claim responsibility for all mistakes in the French-to-English conversion.
{Vis-à-vis the original français, I do not know how closely – if at all – the French interpretation matches the structure and meaning of the Sanskrit original.}
Also, I am providing this work for the sake of love and devotion, not scholarship or reproduction elsewhere.)

I hope you love this verse even one-tenth as much as I do! Words cannot describe my delight upon finding it at long last!

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Presents from my presence.

Happy Holi, all!

Holi is the date that I chose/researched as “Indra Jāyantī”, and today is also my two-year “anniversary” of being Hindu. So it’s pretty much my favourite day of the year, and one of the few times you’ll find this old bat in a fairly good mood.

Hence, I have a few gifts for y’all today.

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Saving the Earth, one blog post at a time.

There’s a lot percolating in my brain lately – but the mind-to-fingertips connection, which would normally translate my thoughts into blog posts, seems to be broken.

Before this WordPress journal, I blogged for eight years on LiveJournal and briefly kept a blog on Dreamwidth. This is a recycled entry from the latter. It was written about a year and a half ago, and discusses one of Indra’s many names/epithets, found among his thousand names (or sahasranāma).

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Breath of life.

It will be a while before the travelogue is complete, if ever; something breaks inside of me each time I try to continue. Anyway, I’m itching to write about thoughts as they happen, instead of rewinding to months ago. Today, I simply want to ramble.

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