Sarama (Samskrit : सरमा) is Devashuni (Samskrit : देवशुनी) or the divine Mother of Dogs and Indra's subordinate as described in the Rigveda. Her son is referred to as Sarameya (सारमेयः) in Rig Veda (7.55.2). Legend goes that Panis stole the divine cows (गोग्रहणम् | gograhana) and hid them in caves. Devashuni or Sarama, by Indra's orders goes in search and locates them thereby, helps Indra release them. Rigveda has many references to Sarama (1.62.3, 1.72.8, 3.31.6, 4.16.8, 5.45.7 and 8, and in mandala 10).
परिचयः || Introduction
In Srimad Bhagavata (6.6.24 to 26) it is said that Sarama is the wife of Kashyapa rshi and is the mother of all animals including tigers and lions.
शृणु नामानि लोकानां मातॄणां शङ्कराणि च ।। २४ (Bhag. Pura. 6.6.24)
अथ कश्यपपत्नीनां यत्प्रसूतमिदं जगत् । अदितिर्दितिर्दनुः काष्ठा अरिष्टा सुरसा इला ।। २५ (Bhag. Pura. 6.6.25)
मुनिः क्रोधवशा ताम्रा सुरभिः सरमा तिमिः । तिमेर्यादोगणा आसन्श्वापदाः सरमासुताः २६ (Bhag. Pura. 6.6.26)
śṛṇu nāmāni lokānāṃ mātṝṇāṃ śaṅkarāṇi ca ।। 24 (Bhag. Pura. 6.6.24)
atha kaśyapapatnīnāṃ yatprasūtamidaṃ jagat । aditirditirdanuḥ kāṣṭhā ariṣṭā surasā ilā ।। 25 (Bhag. Pura. 6.6.25)
muniḥ krodhavaśā tāmrā surabhiḥ saramā timiḥ । timeryādogaṇā āsanśvāpadāḥ saramāsutāḥ 26 (Bhag. Pura. 6.6.26)
Summary : "O King Parikshit, now please hear from me the names of Kasyapa's wives, from whose wombs the population of the entire universe has come. They are the mothers of almost all the population of the entire universe and their names are very auspicious to hear. They are Aditi, Diti, Danu, Kashtha, Arishta, Surasa, Ila, Muni, Krodhavasha, Tamra, Surabhi, Sarama and Timi. From the womb of Timi, all the aquatics took birth and from the womb of Sarama, the ferocious animals like the tigers and lions took birth."
Syama and Sabala, sons of Sarama, were two prominent messengers of Yama and they possessed four eyes each. The offsprings of these dogs are called Sarameyas. Other instances where Sarama is mentioned in different texts include
- Sarama worships Brahma in his court. (Sabha Parva, Chapter 11 , Verse 40).
- Sarama is a graha (Evil spirit) of Subrahmanya which enters the womb of pregnant women and steals the babies. (Vana Parva. Chapter 230, Verse 34).
- Syama is a dog which followed Yama. It was one of the two offsprings of Sarama. (Brahmanda Purana 3.7. 312).
- Sarama after having once drunk milk from dasyus lied about it to Indra, and he punished her. (Varaha Purana). (Page 694 of Reference )
व्युत्पत्तिः || Etymology
- Maharshi Yaska defines Sarama as सरमा सरणात् । saramā saraṇāt । (Nirukti 11.24)
It means One who moves forward very fast or walks very fast.
- According to Brahmanda purana,
क्रोधायाः कन्यका जज्ञे द्वादशैवात्मसंभवाः । ता भार्या पुलहस्यासन्नामतो मे निबोधत ॥ २,७.१७१ ॥ (Brah. Pura. 2.7.171) मृगी च मृगमन्दा च हरिभद्रा त्विरावती । भूता च कपिशा दंष्ट्रा ऋषा तिर्या तथैव च ॥ २,७.१७२ ॥ (Brah. Pura. 2.7.172) श्वेता च सरमा चैव सुरसा चेति विश्रुता । मृग्यास्तु हरिगाः पुत्रा मृगश्चान्ये शशास्तथा ॥ २,७.१७३ ॥ (Brah. Pura. 2.7.173)
krodhāyāḥ kanyakā jajñe dvādaśaivātmasaṃbhavāḥ । tā bhāryā pulahasyāsannāmato me nibodhata ॥ 2,7.171 ॥ (Brah. Pura. 2.7.171) mṛgī ca mṛgamandā ca haribhadrā tvirāvatī । bhūtā ca kapiśā daṃṣṭrā ṛṣā tiryā tathaiva ca ॥ 2,7.172 ॥ (Brah. Pura. 2.7.172) śvetā ca saramā caiva surasā ceti viśrutā । mṛgyāstu harigāḥ putrā mṛgaścānye śaśāstathā ॥ 2,7.173 ॥ (Brah. Pura. 2.7.173)
Meaning : Sarama was one of the 12 daughters of Kashyapa and Krodha. They became the wives of Pulaha. Their names are Mrigi, Mrigamanda, Haribhadra, Iravati, Bhuta, Kapisha, Damshtra, Rsha, Tirya, Shveta, Sarama, Surasa. They were all well renowned. The progeny of Mrigi are the deers, antilopes and rabbits (Page 452 of Reference 4).
दुल्लोलकं ललोहं च सरमा द्वौ व्यजायत ॥ २,७.४४१ ॥ (Brah. Pura. 2.7.441)
dullolakaṃ lalohaṃ ca saramā dvau vyajāyata ॥ 2,7.441 ॥ (Brah. Pura. 2.7.441)
Meaning : Sarama gave birth to Dyuloka and Laloha.(Page 474 of Reference 4)
Janamejaya and Sarama
The Mahabharata contains a story about Sarama cursing Janamejaya. Janamejaya along with his brother once performed a yajna of long duration at Kuruksetra. While the yajna was going on, a dog (son of Sarama, the female dog of the Devas) came there. The three brothers of Janamejaya beat the dog which returned to its mother, Sarama, crying. The mother asked him whether he had done anything to deserve the beating, and he answered thus : "No, mother, I had done nothing wrong. I did not lick the havis (oblations), nor did I even look at it." Hearing her son's reply Sarama in deep anguish, went to Kuruksetra and questioned Janamejaya as to why her innocent son was beaten by his brothers. Neither he nor his brothers replied to Sarama, and she cursed Janamejaya that he would be subjected to adrstaphala (unforeseen results). Bhima II, son of King Pariksit and brother of Janamejaya who, at the yajna conducted at Kuruksetra attacked, without reason, the son of Sarama. This curse upset Janamejaya so much that after the Sarpa Satra was over and on his return to Hastinapura he made a search for a Purohita (priest) competent enough to redeem him from his sins, and at last he invited Somasravas, son of the great sage Srutasravas to be his Purohita, and thus did Somasravas become the priest of Janamejaya (Adi Parva, Chapter 3).
Panis and Sarama
Panis are basically tradesmen who were prominent class of people along with Dasyus and Asuras, intelligent, powerful having a materialistic outlook. Nirukta describes them as tightfisted, shrewd business-minded people with no regard for yajnas (यज्ञ) and charity. The conflict between Indra and Panis was mainly due to the refusal of Panis to contribute to Dana (दानम्) and Dakshina (दक्षिणा) for Yajna. Wealth in those days was mainly the strength of cattle and property.
Rigveda (10.108) describes the legendary theft of the divine cows and the quest of Devashuni Sarama to locate them. A conversation between Sarama and Panis takes place after she crosses the Rasa (रसा) river, where the Panis hide the cows in the caves. Once Panis stole some cows and hid them in some unknown place. Indra asked Sarama, the female dog of the Devas to find out and inform him where the cows were kept concealed. Indra acted according to the advice of Angiras. Sarama replied that she was prepared to do so, if Indra would give milk to her child and look after it in her absence. Indra undertook that task and the female dog went out and found out the place where the cows were hidden and reported it to Indra, (Rgveda, 1st Mandala, 11th Anuvaka, 62nd Sukta) .
Rasatala is the residence of the notorious Nivatakavaca-Kalakeyas. They were enemies of the devas and they tormented them in many ways. The majestic authority of Mahavisnu decreased their virility. They are now living in Rasatala frightened by the threats and beatings with a magic wand of Sarama, a mantrarupini (a sacred chant incarnate) deputed by Indra. (Page 581 of reference)
In the Rigveda mantra Sarama is glorified thus,
विश्वे अस्या व्युषि माहिनायाः सं यद्गोभिरङ्गिरसो नवन्त | उत्स आसां परमे सधस्थ ऋतस्य पथा सरमा विदद्गाः || (Rig Veda 5.45.8)
viśve asyā vyuṣi māhināyāḥ saṃ yadgobhiraṅgiraso navanta | utsa āsāṃ parame sadhastha ṛtasya pathā saramā vidadgāḥ || (Rig Veda 5.45.8)
Meaning : During the dawn hours when the sacred Usha rises along with her rays, all Angirasas took the milk flowing from cow’s udders and placed it at a lofty position to offer in yajnas. Sarama by traveling on the path of the yajna with the knowledge of rta (ऋतम्) recognized and found the cows.
Esoteric Meaning :Here, the cows are considered as transcendental knowledge and their moving about for grazing during usha kala (उषः कालः | morning hours) is called the time for jnanodaya (ज्ञानोदयः | awakening of knowledge). For Angirasa, to receive this knowledge, Sarama was very important and Sarama moves on into the path of rtasatya (ऋतसत्यम्) with greater speed and ahead of everyone she (सत्यवृत्ता । satyavrtta) was able to locate the cows. This is Sarama’s rta path or the path of truth. She who moves very fast can understand the deepest place where jnana (ज्ञानम् | wisdom) is hidden through fragrance (shruti | श्रुतिः is compared to fragrance).
In the previous mantra, Sarama and her work is explained.
अनूनोदत्र हस्तयतो अद्रिरार्चन्येन दश मासो नवग्वाः । ऋतं यती सरमा गा अविन्दद्विश्वानि सत्याङ्गिराश्चकार ॥७॥ (Rig Veda 5.45.7)
anūnodatra hastayato adrirārcanyena daśa māso navagvāḥ । ṛtaṃ yatī saramā gā avindadviśvāni satyāṅgirāścakāra ॥7॥ (Rig Veda 5.45.7)
Meaning : Here, urged by hands, loudly rang the pressing stone (using which Somarasa | सोमरसः is prepared) which was worshipped by Navagvas by offering archana (अर्चना) and singing songs of praise for ten months. In this yajna, Sarama obtained the knowledge of the songs, and Angiras gave effect to all their labors.
Loyalty of Sarama
The 10th mandala of Rigveda beautifully outlines the Sarama and Panis Samvada ( सरमापणिसंवादः) wherein Sarama tries to convince the Panis to return the stolen cows. The Panis in turn try to lure Sarama by offering her the herdship of the cows and state her loyalty to them. According to Rigveda, Sarama remains loyal to Indra and threatens the Panis of inviting the wrath of Indra if the cows are not returned to him. She then goes back to Indra and he with the help of Angirasa rishi retrieves the cows after defeating Panis.
However, in Brhaddevata 8.24-36, Sarama as in Rigveda refuses bribes but is lured by the milk of the Cows and transfers her loyalties to Panis. When she returns to Indra and refuses to disclose the hideout of the cows, Indra kicks her in rage. She vomits out the milk received as a bribe, and then goes back to trace the Panis.
In the Jaimineeya Brahmana, 2.440-442, devatas first send Suparna, the eagle. However, the Panis bribe him into silence, and he accepts their gifts and returns without any information. The enraged devatas strangle him and he vomits out the curds, etc. received from the Panis. Then they 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 beyond the Rasa. She and her descendants are then blessed by a grateful Indra.
संवादः || Discussion
Rigveda explains that Vak (वाक्) exists in four forms, three of which are hidden and are comprehensible to only the jnanis (ज्ञानी) and the fourth is what men speak.
चत्वारिवाक परिमितापदानितानि विदुर्ब्राह्मणाये मनीषिणः| गुहा तरीणि निहिता नेङगयन्ति तुरीयं वाचो मनुष्या वदन्ति || (Rig. Veda. 1.164.45)
catvārivāka parimitāpadānitāni vidurbrāhmaṇāye manīṣiṇaḥ| guhā tarīṇi nihitā neṅagayanti turīyaṃ vāco manuṣyā vadanti || (Rig. Veda. 1.164.45)
The cows hidden in caves at a lofty mountainous location could be traced by the intelligent rishis. It is explained that the divine speech of Vedas has one such special power wherein one (a jnani similar to Angirasa) who is engaged in the vedic study, by the power of Vedas, is able to 'experience and see’. Such knowledge which can be experienced by concept is called Sarama.
Therefore, here, the jnana (ज्ञानम्) is compared to the fragrance of shruti (श्रुतिः) which can be recognized by the transcendental senses. In this way, recognition of fragrance by shvana (श्वनः | here, Indra’s dog) is important.
- Srimad Bhagavatapuranam English Translation (Skanda 6 Adhyaya 6)
- Srimad Bhagavatapuranam (Skanda 6 Adhaya 6)
- Mani, V. (1975). Puranic encyclopaedia : A comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature. Delhi:Motilal Banasidass.
- Nirukta (Adhyaya 11)
- Brahmanda Puranam (Madhyamabhaga Adhyaya 7)
- Tagare, G. V. (1958) Brahmanda Purana (Madhyabhaga Upodghatabhaga) English Translation, Part 3 Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass
- Prasad, Prakash Charan. (1977) Foreign Trade and Commerce in Ancient India. New Delhi : Abhinav Publications
- Rig Veda (Mandala 10, Sukta 108)
- Satavalekar, Pt. Sripada Damodara. (1985) Rigved ka subodh bhasya, Volume 4. Paradi : Svadhyaya Mandal
- Rig Veda (Mandala 5, Sukta 45)
- Narayanacharya, K. S. (2011). Veda Sanskritiya Parichaya, Part I. Hubli:Sahitya Prakashana.
- Sarama and the Panis : A Mythological Theme in the Rigveda