da Epithets in the ṛgveda, Jan Gonda, Mouton & CO, 1959
rudra, often described as a terrible and malevolent god with injurious features and on the other hand implored not to slay or injure, in his anger, his worshippers and their relatives, and even to bestow blessings, to grant remedies and to produce welfare and happiness, occupies a subordinate position in the ṛgveda, where his name occurs about seventy- five times. What is especially interesting in connection with this very terrible god is the considerable number of places exhibiting a large number of epithets : in attempting to propitiate the god and to avert his wrath man does his utmost to get on his right side, to call him by those names and epithets which are most suitable to the occasion. See e.g. 1,114,1 ; 4; 5. It is worth while to ascertain that the large majority of the places in these hymns which deal with him are negatively concerned with his formidable qualities and traits of character: also in the atharvaveda he is supplicated not to attack man with illness, poison or the fire from heaven (11, 2, 26): “elsewhere than (on) us make that lightning fall” (ibidem). An epithet which is frequently applied to him is kṣayadvīra- “ruler of heroes”. Characterizing him as a powerful lord it occurs four times in the hymn 1, 114 which is addressed to him “in order to promote the health and prosperity of men and animals” (st. 1). In st. 2 the ks. one is besought to be gracious, his worshippers will be his humble servants (namasā vidhema te; cf. 10, 92, 9); st. 3 implores his kindness promising to worship him (aśyāma te sumatim devayajyayā); st. 10 his grace or benevolence (sumnam asme te astu), asking him also for pity and protection. His weapons are often mentioned. In 2, 33, 3 he is by the epithet vajrabāho described as holding the vajra-, being “the strongest of the strong” (tavastamas tavasām). He is however usually said to be armed with a bow and arrows: 5, 52, 16 (iṣmiṇam) where he is the father of the Maruts, who are sometimes (e.g. 5, 57,2) said to carry the same weapons. Cf. 7,46,1 - which will be quoted elsewhere -, where the addition tigmāyudhāya “having (casting) sharp weapons” to sthiradhanvane “with a strong bow” and kṣipreṣave “having quick arrows” shows that pointed weapons are characteristic of this god,167 whose terrible shafts are much feared (cf. e.g. 2, 33, 14; 6, 2$, 7; also 10, 125, 6). In 4, 3, 6 he even receives the epithet “man-slaying” (nṛghne; cf. Âsv. GS. 4, 8, 32, where he is said to be intent on slaying human beings) : there are no indications in the context which would furnish a motive for using this word. In 2, 33, 9 and 11 he is ugra- “energetically powerful”, and a youth who hits like a wild beast; the epithet recurs in 10.126, 5 where he, indra, agni, and the maruts are invoked for well-being and deliverance from hostility. In 2, 33, 9 and 15 he is also babhruḥ “brown”, an adjective which evidently is so character istic of him that in st. 5 it is used instead of his name. RV. 2, 33, 14 is a deprecation of this god’s wrath: he is implored to avert his great malevolence and his bolt from his worshippers: pari tveṣasya durmatir mahī gāt the epithet tveṣa- “impetuous, vehement, causing fear” is well adapted to the context. The epithet mīḍhvas- “merciful, bounteous, liberal, blessing, gracious” is applied to various gods. In connection with Indra it appears 8, 76, 7 which is to invite the god to a soma sacrifice: “do thou drink, O m., śatakratu, who art highly lauded”, no doubt a captatio benevolentiae ; 10, 85, 25 and 45 in praying him to render a woman fruitful and sympathetic; 2, 24, 1 and 12 in asking and stating consummation of ambitions, fulfilment of prayers; 8,46,17 the god is called m., araṃgama- “ready to help”, and Jagmi- “quick, speeding”. It is interesting to notice that this adjective is several times used in connection with rudra, and in the later Vedas its comparative and superlative seem to have been exclusively applied to this god, 188 who whilst often depicted as malevolent, is often addressed deprecatingly. Thus, 2, 33, 14 ava sthirā maghavadbhyas tanuṣva / mīḍhvas tokāya tanayāya mṛla “unbend the bow in favour of our patrons, O m., spare (our) children and offspring” : in the first half of the stanza the god is likewise besought to avert his weapon and to keep his anger down. See also 7, 40, 5. Elsewhere Rudra is supplicated to bestow his favour (or good disposition: sumatim) upon those praying: 1, 114, 3, where he is also invited to come graciously to their dwellings.
Those who worship him no doubt hope that the god will show this side of his character. Cf. 1, 43, 1. Or the priest attempts to prepossess the god towards benevolence by inciting the officiants to offer him soma: 1, 122, 1 pra vaḥ pāntam… andho / yajñam rudrāya mīḷhuṣe bharadhvam. The last quarter of 5, 41, 2 expresses “eine Art von Entschuldigung, dass rudra in anderer Gesellschaft genannt wird, während er sonst eine Sonderstellung einnimmt…” : stomaṃ rudrāya mīḷhuṣe sajoṣāḥ. The stanza is the expression of the wish that mitra and the other gods who are praised may be pleased and well-disposed. The epithet occurs also in deprecating rudra’s sons, the Maruts: 7, 58, 5 tān … rudrāsya mīḷhuṣaḥ “the (sons of) the m. R.”. Here the father seems to receive praise in order to win the favour of the sons; see also 6, 66, 3. Geldner’s translation is “Lohnherr” or 6, 66, 3 (where it is more or less fossilized) “Brotherr”. - Another god who is described as mīḷhvas- is agni: 3, 16, 3 in a prayer for wealth and sons. The opening stanza of 4, 5 praises the god, inter alia, as mīḷhvas, no doubt a captatio benevolentiae (cf. also 10, 188, 2); this character is still more in evidence in 7, 15, 1 where the name of the god is left unmentioned, and 2, 8, 1. Cf. also 4, 15, 5. The epithet alternates with the name: 7, 16, 3, and has become stereotyped: 8, 102, 15. - Soma is likewise addressed as m.* 8, 79, 9 in a prayer to prevent various disasters; 9, 61, 23 in an appeal to become wealthy; in a prayer for ample room to move in 9, 85, 4; in a record of assistance lent to man: 9, 97, 39; without an apparent motive: 9, 74, 7; 107, 7; 113, 2. The epithet *sumakha- in 4, 3, 7 may match the other attribute havirdā- “procuring (or: accepting?) the sacrificial gift”; cf. 5, 87, 7 uwhere the rudras, i.e. rudra’s sons, the maruts, are sumakha-, tuvidyu- mna- “of mighty splendour or prestige” like agni, while being im plored for help: it seems to be a mere captation. In 7, 46, 3 he is an intelligent god (svapivāta) who possesses a thousand remedies: as is well known intelligence was, in ancient India, first and foremost practical ability.
In 1,129,3 and 10,92,9 rudra is known as svayaśas- “glorious through himself” (“selbstherrlich”, Geldner), the former passage being a prayer for protection against enemies, the latter an appeal to praise the god. The poet of 1, 43, 4 addresses him as “lord of the religious chant, lord of sacrifice, with healing medicines”, asking for “the grace of the beneficent one” (gāthapatim medhapatiṃ rudraṃ jalāṣabheṣajam / tac chamyoḥ sumnam īmahe). In 7, 35, 6 he is, in a long enumeration of gods who are invoked for happiness, briefly called jalāṣa- “healing, appeasing”.
The adjective suhava- “well or easily invoked, listening willingly” is applied to a variety of gods. It is in the first place very appositely used in prayers and urgent requests addressed to divine powers to be benevolent and munificent. In attempting to remove the god’s suspicion the author of 2, 33, 5 calls rudra “easily pleased and listening willingly”. RV. 1, 123, 13 Usas is spoken to as follows: uṣo no adya suhavā vy ucha “O U. shine today for us, easily to be invoked”, and after this invocation the poet continues: asmāsu rāyo maghavatsu ca syuḥ. In 5,46,7 the goddesses, said to be suhava-, are supplicated for safety. agni, being implored to be merciful and to propitiate varuṇa (4, 1, 5) is no less suhava- than 3,15, 1 where the poet asks the god to extend his guidance and protection to himself. Another intelligible use of the epithet occurs 4, 16, 16 tam id va indraṃ suhavaṃ huvema “we will invoke that god who is…” (paronomasia); 6,47,11… / have have suhavam śūram indram / hvayāmi... ; 10, 63,9 bhareṣv indraṃ suhavaṃ havāmahe 10, 36, 7 (maruts), cf. 8; 10, 39, 1 (the chariot of the aśvins, cf. 8, 22,2). Thus agni and parjanya are asked to favour the eulogy asmin have suhavau (6, 52, 16). Cf. also 7, 44, 2; 8,22,1 (aśvins) ; 7, 82,4 (indra and varuṇa) ; 2, 32,4; 7,93,1 ; 10,141,4.
In 6, 49, 9 the hotar should worship tvaṣṭar who is described as suhava-. Elsewhere the poet simply states that a god is suhava-, adding a prayer or request: 7, 1, 21 tvam agne suhavo raṇvasaṃdṛk… “thou, A., art s. and of beautiful appearance, may we always have a son”. Or he expresses the wish that the god may be suhavaḥ, e.g. 5, 42, 16.
However, the epithet may occur as a mere statement among other expressions of the poet’s opinion with regard to a god’s character and abilities: 3, 49, 3 Indra is victorious etc., and also piteva cāruḥ suhavo vayodhāḥ “dear like a father, 5., bestowing (or possessing) the strength of the vigorous age”. Cf. 3, 6, 8; 4, 19, 1. agni is 1, 58, 6 an esteemed guest,s.anddearlikeatreasure. In2,36,3 suhava-used in an invitation of the gods to come, is no doubt suggestive and adhortative : ameva naḥ suhavā ā hi gantana. Cf. 7, 40, 4. In cases such as 10, 39, 11 the function of the epithet is hardly other than a captatio benevolentiae and a con firmation of the speaker’s belief in the readiness of the gods to hear him: the man whom you and other gods, O s. aśvins assist, is safe from danger” ; 2, 36, 3; 5, 98, 4; 7, 93, 1; 10, 92, 13; 141, 4.