Angirasa (अङ्गिरसः)

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Angirasa (Sanskrit : अङ्गिरसः) or Angira (Sanskrit : अङ्गिरः) is a rishi (sage), who is associated with several vedic and puranic individuals. Descendants of Angirasa are called Aangirasa (आङ्गिरसः), who are credited with the darshana of many Rig vedic mantras.

Angira is described in the Rigveda as a teacher of divine knowledge, a mediator between men and gods, as well as stated in other instances to be the first of Agni-devas (fire gods)[1] . Angirasa has also been referred to as one of the seven sages or Saptarishis of the first Manvantara.[citation needed] One of his sons was Brihaspati (Aangirasa) who, according to another version along with Sage Atharvana, is credited to have compiled the fourth Veda called Atharva Veda[citation needed].

In some manuscripts of Atharvaveda, the text is attributed to Atharvangirasah, which is a compound of sage Atharvan and Angiras[citation needed]. The student family of Angiras are called Angirasa, and they are credited to be the authors of some hymns in the first, second, fifth, eighth, ninth and tenth book of the Rigveda[citation needed].

परिचय || Introduction

The different references to Angirasa are presented in different texts as follows

  • Angirasa, is a rishi who undertook the upasana of important pranas of the body. Hence the main prana is thought of as Angirasa by rishis. (Chaandogya upanishad).
  • Angirasa is one amongst the ten Brahma Manasaputras, i.e. sons born by mere thought or manas, of Lord Brahma. Upon Brahma’s desire, Angirasa through his wife Shraddha, begot seven sons: Brihat Keerti, Brihat Jyoti, Brihat Brahma, Brihan Manas, Brihan Mantra, Brihat Bhanu, Brihaspati. He also had daughters namely Bhanumati, Raka, CineeVali, Mahishmati, Guhu, Mahamati , Archishamati and Yogasiddhi. ( Mahabharata)
  • Angirasa is the son of Ulmuka and younger brother of Anga who is a King. It is said that Anga married Suneedha while Angirasa got married to Smriti, the daughter of Daksha prajapati.
  • Angirasa is closely associated with Agni, being born from sacrificial fire of Varuna: Varunasya Rutoujatahpawakadity nah shrutam (Mahabharata 1.5.8).
  • Angirasa is identified with Agni:

    यदङग दाशुषे त्वमग्ने भद्रं करिष्यसि । तवेत् सत्यमङ्गिरः॥ (Rig. Veda. 1.1.6)

    yadaṅaga dāśuṣe tvamagne bhadraṁ kariṣyasi । tavet satyamaṅgiraḥ॥(Rig. Veda. 1.1.6)

    Meaning: To your worshipper, Agni bring forth all prosperity, you are the Angirasa. (Angirasa is associated with bringing the prosperity of cows)
  • Angirasa is identified with Indra also :

    सो अङगिरोभिरङगिरस्तमो भूद वृषा वृषभिः सखिभिः सखा सन् | ऋग्मिभिर्ऋग्मी गातुभिर्ज्येष्ठो मरुत्वान नो भवत्विन्द्र ऊती ||  (Rig. Veda. 1.100.4)

    so aṅagirobhiraṅagirastamo bhūda vr̥ṣā vr̥ṣabhiḥ sakhibhiḥ sakhā san | r̥gmibhirr̥gmī gātubhirjyeṣṭho marutvāna no bhavatvindra ūtī || 

    Meaning : Oh Indra, You are the chief among the Angirasas, friend among friends, mightiest among the mighty, foremost among the singers, surrounded by Maruts may you protect us.
  • References to Kutsa Angirasa, Sapta Angirasa, Uru Angirasa and Prabhavasu Angirasas are seen in different mantras of Rig veda as mantra drasthas.
  • As mentioned in the Rig-Veda (10.108), Angirasa is the one to whom Indra presents all the cows after freeing them from the captivation of Asura named Vala and several other asuras called the Panis.

Etymology

  • Rig Veda: Sri Sayanacharya's explanation refers to Angirasa as one who traverses with great speed.  

    unganthi gachanthi ittangiraso ganthara

  • Nirukta : Yaskacharya's explanation is connected to the appearance of Angirasa.  

    angaresu angiraha angaraha ankanaha anchanaha (Nirukta 3.17)

    He was born from the retas or the semen of Brahma and it was blazing like cinder and then first Aditya appeared and then Angirasa. Even for agni there is a word called Angaraha meaning one which creates an impression anka or sign. Similarly Angirasa also means: one who creates a lasting impression in others.  
  • Brahmana : Taitriya Brahmana explains Angirasa as those who are like the cinder or agni.  

    ye angara asanthe angiraso abhavan (Taitriya Brahmana 3.34)

  • Upanishad : Chandogya Upanishad explains as below that because all the limbs of the body are controlled by prana that mukya prana itself has become anga rasa or angirasa.  

    तँहाङ्गिरा उद्गीथमुपासांचक्र एतमु एवाऽऽङ्गिरसं मन्यन्तेऽङ्गानां यद्रसः || (Chan. Upan. 1.2.10)

    tam̐hāṅgirā udgīthamupāsāṁcakra etamu evā''ṅgirasaṁ manyante'ṅgānāṁ yadrasaḥ || (Chan. Upan. 1.2.10)

  • In the Upanayanam kriya (thread ceremony) the Initiator, prays let my medha shakti, the wisdom power, increase like Angirasa.  

    medham mayyam angiraso medhagam sapta rushayo daduhu medham mayyam prajapathihi medhaamagnir dadathu me (Mampra 2.4.6)

    Plentiful are such references in the vedangas. The mention of Angirasa in various scriptures and the significance of Angirasa's knowledge of the characteristics of cows is also noteworthy as evident from the Rg Veda 10th mandala mantras.  

Angirasa and Gograhana

In the Rig Veda  (10.108), there is a story of Angirasa in connection with the cows. This particular legend of stealing of Cows or गोग्रहणम्॥ Gograhanam has been described vividly in Rig Veda 3.31, and 10.108, including a reference in 8.14. Again, a description on the family of Angirasa is given in the Mandala 6 of the Rig-Veda.

The legend goes that Panis were the demons who stole the cows and hid them in a cave. Indra asks his dog Sarama to find the cows. Sarama was able to find the cows' whereabouts in the first instance. During that search, an important discussion between the Panis and Sarama occurs. Angirasa rushi then helped Indra to locate the Panis who stole the cows.

The Rig Veda 9.97.39 explains how Angirasa assisted Indra in securing the cows stolen by Panis and hidden in the mountains.

येना नः पूर्वे पितरः पदज्ञाः स्वर्विदो अभि गा अद्रिमुष्णन् || (Rig Veda. 9.97.39)

'yenā naḥ pūrve pitaraḥ padajñāḥ svarvido abhi gā adrimuṣṇan || (Rig Veda. 9.97.39)

Meaning : In our family and pitris (ancestors), there is Angirasa who, a sarvajna,( knowledgeable about the paraloka), brought back the stolen cows which were identified by their foot marks (characteristics) from mountains

This reference is also found in the Jaimineeya Brahmana, II.440-442. Here, the cows are clearly referred to as the cows of the Gods stolen by the Panis.  This time, the Gods first send Suparna, the eagle. However, the Panis bribe him into silence, and he accepts their gifts and returns without any information. The enraged Gods strangle him, and he vomits out the curds, etc. received from the Panis. Then the Gods send Sarama. She crosses the river Rasa and approaches the Panis. She is also offered bribes, but (as in the Rigveda) she refuses their blandishments and returns to Indra with the information that the cows are hidden inside the Rasa. She and her descendants are then blessed by a grateful Indra.

In the Brhaddevata, viii 24-36 the same sequence of events takes place, but this time Sarama accepts the bribe of the Panis, and apparently transfers her loyalties to them. When she returns to Indra and refuses to disclose the hideout of the cows, Indra kicks her in a rage. She vomits out the milk received as a bribe, and then goes back to trace the Panis.

सम्वाद || Discussion

As seen in the story of Angirasa protecting the cows, there is a historical and legendary perspective to it. If historically and economically Panis were highly business oriented contributing greatly to trade, some questions arise,  

  1. As businessmen, did they not raise cattle?  
  2. What does it mean by stealing cows?  

The esoteric knowledge of this episode has been deliberately misused by the Indologists to create a wrong notion of shastras and oppositional categories to suit their colonial agenda.

Explanation - Esoteric Understanding of Angirasa bringing the cows

Here गो || go (cows) means the आध्यात्मविद्या || adhyatma vidya (spiritual knowledge) that is endorsed in Vedas and the foot marks of cows (characteristics) means actually explaining the meaning of the Vedic words which are esoteric which are to be deciphered properly. And those who understand this knowledge are called padajna (having the knowledge of the Veda). The 4 legs of this Kamadhenu the Vedas are dharma, artha, kama, moksha – which are the purusharthas.

Therefore which mantras provide for which purushartha was known very well to Angirasa rushi. As he was knowledgeable in mantras which leads one to the parama pada or the highest abode he was the sarvavidaha or sarvajna as explained in Rig Veda

चत्वारिवाक परिमितापदानितानि विदुर्ब्राह्मणाये मनीषिणः|

गुहा तरीणि निहिता नेङगयन्ति तुरीयं वाचो मनुष्या वदन्ति || (Rig. Veda. 1.164.45)

catvarivak parimitapadanitani vidurbrahmana ye minishinah |

guha tarini nihita neengayanti turiyam vaco manushyavadanti || (Rig. Veda. 1.164.45)

These परा (para), पश्यन्ति (pasyanthi), मध्यमा (madhyama) and वैखरी (vaikhari) are the 4 ways of speech . Those who understand the meaning of these words or padas are called padajna (knower of those speech) or svarvida (these four paadas(legs) or padas (the sentences). The purusharthas which are called chatvari-sringa, are known as the 4 horns of the agni purusha or fire personified and the relationship they have with each other can only be understood by the process of yoga (upasana).

The esoteric meaning of bringing down the cows (synonymous to the Vedas) from the mountain top is very significant. The panis have common knowledge, who cannot assimilate the high standard of Vedic knowledge. Their carrying away the cows symbolises that even if they take it away they do not get any benefit or they will not understand the esoteric meaning. And the go (cows) or the Vedic words were not damaged. The knowledgeable who had faith in these cows, were inconvenienced. Those who do not understand the meaning of Vedas, such people may be in disguise and steal the words of Vedas, but they won’t get the benefit of the Vedas.

References

  1. Sarama and the Panis: A Mythological Theme in the Rigveda from the site http://voiceofdharma.org/books/rig/ch10.htm
  2. Rig veda mantras reference http://ignca.nic.in/Vedic_portal_rigveda_shakala_Samhita.htm
  3. Pandit Ramnarayandatt Shastri. (1955). Mahabharata. Gorakhpur:Gita Press.
    1. Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide by Roshen Dalal