Is there polytheism in Vedas?
DR VIVEK ARYA
USA senate few days back was started with the chanting of Vedic
mantras and prayers by Hindu priest Rajan Zed. Its first time in USA
senate history that the senate sounded with the holy Vedic mantras.
Unfortunately the awesome event was followed by protest from
Christian members of senate who protested against the prayers saying
that the Hindus are believers of polytheism and only bible prayers
should be done, as Christ is the only god. My aim to write this
article is not to show sorrow what had happened but to clear one
untouched doubt from minds of general mass that is there polytheism
Vedas, no doubt the most ancient sacred texts found on
globe are the most valuable gift in form of knowledge for the whole
mankind. The holy message in Vedas is for whole humanity
irrespective of caste, creed and religion. Many Indian Acharyas like
Madhvacharya, Sayanacharya to western ones like Max Muller, Wilson
one are available with the latest and most authentic one by Swami
Few acharyas have propagated polytheism (pleurisy of gods);
some says monism (development of the universe from a single element)
while Max Muller even coined a new tern name henotheism (each of
several divinities is regarded as the supreme each in its sphere).
My article will try to put light on ignored truth of monotheism in
Vedas and explanation of the concept of 33 Devas.
Atharvaveda 13/4/6-9 and 21 clearly says that “God is
neither the second, nor the third, nor yet the fourth. He is called
neither the fifth, nor the sixth, nor yet the seventh. He is neither
the eighth, nor the ninth, nor yet the tenth. He takes care of all
that breathes and all that does not breathes. He has got all this
conquering power, he is the one, one and the only one”
Rig 10/121/1 says ” God who possesses all the luminous
worlds within himself and exists from the very eternity, he is the
only one manifest lord of the created creatures”.
Yaju 23/3 says ” He who by the greatness of his power, is
the sole ruler of living and lifeless objects existing in this
The oneness of god has been poetically described in Rig
10/31/5 as ” he whose eyes go everywhere, who faces all sides, whose
arms are here, there all around and whose feet in all directions is
the only one divine being who has created all these heavens.”
There are many Vedic mantras like these singing the glory of
single god in the Vedas. Few readers might have a doubt in mind that
if Vedas says about monotheism than whom among Brahma, Vishnu,
Shiva, Indra etc is the supreme god. Answer is very simple. Just as
a person is called brother, father, uncle, husband etc because of
different relationships he bears to other members of the same
family, so also god is described differently because of his
different attributes. Agni (embodiment of knowledge), Indra (vast
wealth owner or commander), Vishnu (omnipresent), Brahma (great),
Varuna (purifier), Mitra (loves everyone), Rudra (harsh the wicked
ones), Dravinoda (giver of wealth and strength) soma (creator of
herbs, roots etc.) are his different names given in Rig 2/1/3-7.
Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati in first chapter of his famous work
Satyarth Prakash (light of truth) clearly mentions hundred such
meaning of several names of god in a magnificent way.
Now our other question that how can we reconcile the idea
of one god with several references to 33 Devas (gods) in the Vedas?
Deva (from nirukta 7.15) according to yaskacharya, the celebrated
author of nirukta (Vedic philology) means one who confers some
advantage upon us, can illuminate things i.e. explain or throw light
upon them, and one who is the source of light. So, it’s a
comprehensive term covering bravemen, devotees of god, learned
persons, and objects like sun, moon, fire, and electricity. The 33
Devas mentioned in rig 1/45/27, 8/28/1, 88/30/2 and Yaju 20/26 and
Satpatha Brahmin are 8 Vasus, 11 Rudras, 12 Adityas, Indra and
Prajapati. The eight Vasus are (1) Agni or Fire (2) Earth (3) Air
(4) Supraterestrial space (5) Sun (6) Moon (7) Atmosphere (8) Stars.
These are called Vasus (abodes) as in them resides all that lives,
moves or exists. The eleven Rudras are the ten Pranas (vital forces)
enlivening the human frame and the eleventh is the Atma or the
soul. The 12 Adityas are the twelve solar months making course of
time. They are called Adityas as by their cyclic motion, they
produce changes in all objects. Indra is all pervading and Prajapati
is Yajna. Also it’s written that the god is the father of the Devas
(Rig 2/26/3), their friend (Rig 1/94/3) and their soul (Atharv
7/11/1) and Atharv mentions that the Devas live around god as the
creepers around a tree.
So we now have come to the conclusion by several evidences
from Vedas that the Vedas sings the glory of the only god. I hope
that most readers will now change their opinion about polytheism in
Vedas. Almighty god is our first benefactor who gave instructions in
the form of Vedas to all human beings at the time of creation to
help them achieve physical, mental and spiritual progress. The
Vedas are like sun which sometimes if covered under the dark shadows
of ignorance for a while shines again even brighter as the clouds
are blown away by the breeze of wind of time. May the supreme
almighty only god gives us wisdom and prosperity.