श॒तहि॑माः of RV 06.012.006 – Memory of Colder Events in Ṛg-veda

There is a situation in Ṛg-Veda in contrast to Atharva-Veda on two phraseological accounts, i.e., (“शतहिमाः सुवीरा:। and जीवेम शरदः शतम् ।(अथर्ववेद19. 67.2)) “śatahimāḥ suvīrā: and jīvema śaradaḥ śatam ।।2।।(Atharvaveda; 19. 67.2). This gave me a nightmare for a while, for why such a phrase. Then I tried to understand our lives vs their live i.e., of our ancestors. There must have been some standard by which they might pass if they survived the worst of the season in order to advance to the next level of age because it is understood that age is quite difficult to get, even for us or our distant ancestors who had far harder lifestyles to live in. In that case it appears ancients to have been exploring the two seasons which had been very harsh in the times of Ṛg-Veda and Atharva-Veda. The winters are pleasant in our times but appears to be not so in the times of Ṛg-Veda.

Myriad Information in Ṛg-veda

In exploring the meaning of Ṛg-Vedic mantra we may have barely scratched the surface. It cannot answer some of our questions but it still remains the source in which many objective physical, geological, climatological informations are preserved, relatively speaking, in its purest form. What possible informations can Ṛg-veda contain in itself which can be understood or deciphered. I will be discussing today about श॒तहि॑माः– “Hundred years of snow (or snowy condition)”. This is one such information which will not find its proper place in the study of history of science from within the Ṛg-Veda. Yet it gives ample glimpse that the Ṛg-Vedic people were experiencing more Colder events as an extraordinary experience amidst transiting from normal-regular experience.

We come across “श॒तहि॑माः सु॒वीरा॑: ॥” as an ending of the seven mantras ranging from RV 06.04 to 06.24. Sixth mandala belongs to Bhāradvāja family and the श॒तहि॑माः mantras are specifically attributed to Agni and Indra.

MantraDevataRishiChanda
RV 06.004.008अग्निःभरद्वाजो बार्हस्पत्यःपङ्क्तिः
RV 06.010.007अग्निःभरद्वाजो बार्हस्पत्यःप्राजापत्याबृहती
RV 06.012.006अग्निःभरद्वाजो बार्हस्पत्यःनिचृत्पङ्क्ति
RV 06.013.006अग्निःभरद्वाजो बार्हस्पत्यःनिचृत्त्रिष्टुप्
RV 06.017.015इन्द्र:भरद्वाजो बार्हस्पत्यःआर्च्युष्णिक्
RV 06.024.010इन्द्र:भरद्वाजो बार्हस्पत्यःविराट्त्रिष्टुप्
Analysis of Devata where श॒तहि॑माः is mentioned

छन्दांसि छादनात्~chandāṃsi chādanāt, to keep the meaning of mantra under the veil thus is the name Chanda. In Vaidic chanda paṅktiḥ (पङ्क्तिः) is ascribed to Haimanti ( c.f Yajurveda 13.54-58) i.e., related to Winters, also with Chand :- paṅktiḥ( पङ्क्तिः) the  स्वर : (Swar) :- पञ्चमः fifth is attributed to fifth season. We also observe that a defective meter निचृत्पङ्क्ति is also seen which may mean to be recited at the end of the winters. The science and reason behind such arrangement may have been lost. Likewise, triṣṭubh (त्रिष्टुभ्)  is for graiṣmi, i.e., summers, and in ārcyuṣṇik (आर्च्युष्णिक्) we find the term उष्णी for heat. (prājāpatyābṛhatī) प्राजापत्याबृहती itself would mean the Prajapati and the year dominance by him in a grand form. On the contrary we had already found that Agni and Indra are the main propagator of a year as the two major spokes of wheeling of the year in one of the earlier blogs. Generally, the Agni hymns come prior to Indra hymns. Yet we see a pattern that Agni hymns are lesser than Indra hymns in Ṛg-Veda. This also indicates that the gharma of Indra was much required and was lauded more than the Agni, a mere change of sun’s position through Rta, for the sake of release of waters after difficult winters. This majorly indicates the reverence to Agni and Indra (chronologically also).

Interestingly, Hima (snow) is absent in the list of deities.

Why not Hima a deity in Ṛg-veda?

We do not find Hima as a devata but rather we find Agni, Indra, Surya (fire), Vāyu (wind), Varuṇa (primeval waters), Prithvi (earth), Vaiśvadevāḥ (all deities of the world), Saraswati, and also one may find variety of deities in Mantra RV 01.013.012 etc. We understand from Ṛg-Vedic devata-deity pattern that Indra and Agni are the major and most celebrated deities of Ṛg-Vedic mantras. Why not Hima a deity?

Bhāradvāja rishi family was noting the transition of climate for years and this can be understood very easily from the phrase “श॒तहि॑माः सु॒वीरा॑: ॥” apparently there is no doubt in it. The situation of श॒तहि॑माः snow was soon going to convert into a Vṛtra in 6.61 RV mantra, which we know as Vṛtrasura– the strongest restrainer. And Indra was the condition who would melt this condition to have a flow of waters, either from clouds or from mountain caves.

The situation of श॒तहि॑माः, hundred years of snow, was soon going to give birth to a mythological tradition via Indra-Vṛtra in the 6.61 Ṛg-vedic mantra, which we know as Vṛtrasura- the strongest restrainer(either of rain or meltdown of snow), later in many mantras.

Vṛtra- Cloud, Snow, Hinderance

Suddenly, we see a pattern which is very similar to summer solstice where the heat is at its epitome and due to condensation the clouds are substantially formed. We also see a pattern of prayers and laudation for rains which we have already seen in the previous blog’s graph that the amount of rains were just half before LGM times and its in human nature that whatever is scares is being lauded for. Thus we don’t find Hima as a laudable condition which was already abundant around. And this analysis also takes the Ṛg-veda to late Pleistocene conditions from where the transition began.

To support the transiting condition of 6th mandala from non lion habitation to lion like habitation we now have the श॒तहि॑माः evidence apparently appearing to be as connecting its conspicuous presence in 6th mandala.

Paleo population of Lion in India and Africa

What can be concluded out of this analysis?

Shri Shrikant Talageri has ascribed 6th mandala to as the oldest in his relative chronology of Ṛg-veda, however, I find that the mention of Agastya’s mysterious birth from Urvashi is the oldest ever recorded astral memory in Ṛg-veda. Even if 6th mandala is taken as the oldest with Shatahima-prolonged winters were observed, with the scanty rains and absence of simha~lion reference one can safely take this mandala to before LGM when the glaciation in the Himalayan region began i.e., during 40,000 BP (before present). As of now it appears that all the Mandalas or Ashtakas of Ṛg-veda grew together to its culminating point.

We find that

तच्चक्षुर्देवहितं पुरस्ताच्छुक्रमुच्चरत् । पश्येम शरदः शतं जीवेम शरदः शतं श्रुणुयाम शरदः शतं प्रब्रवाम शरदः शतमदीनाः स्याम शरदः शतं भूयश्च शरदः शतात् ॥(शुक्लयजुर्वेदसंहिता, अध्याय 36, मंत्र 24)
पश्येम शरदः शतम् ।।१।। जीवेम शरदः शतम् ।।२।। बुध्येम शरदः शतम् ।।३।। रोहेम शरदः शतम् ।।४।। पूषेम शरदः शतम् ।।५।। भवेम शरदः शतम् ।।६।। भूयेम शरदः शतम् ।।७।। भूयसीः शरदः शतात् ।।८।। (अथर्ववेद, काण्ड १९, सूक्त ६७) 

अर्थात - हम सौ शरदों तक देखें, यानी सौ वर्षों तक हमारे आंखों की ज्योति स्पष्ट बनी रहे (१)। सौ वर्षों तक हम जीवित रहें (२); सौ वर्षों तक हमारी बुद्धि सक्षम बनी रहे, हम ज्ञानवान् बने रहे (३); सौ वर्षों तक हम वृद्धि करते रहें, हमारी उन्नति होती रहे (४); सौ वर्षों तक हम पुष्टि प्राप्त करते रहें, हमें पोषण मिलता रहे (५); हम सौ वर्षों तक बने रहें (वस्तुतः दूसरे मंत्र की पुनरावृत्ति!) (६); सौ वर्षों तक हम पवित्र बने रहें, कुत्सित भावनाओं से मुक्त रहें (७); सौ वर्षों से भी आगे ये सब कल्याणमय बातें होती रहें (८)।

Takeaways

The terminus post quem for this Shatahima-prolonged and harsh winters would be the latest date i.e., during 40,000 BP- till 24,000 BP, ie., Last Glacial Maximum, established with certainty. We can also safely say that Ṛg-veda is a tape-recordings of Late Pleistocene times.

2 thoughts on “श॒तहि॑माः of RV 06.012.006 – Memory of Colder Events in Ṛg-veda

  1. Respected Mme.
    For an uninitiated like me it was a sudden jumping to a 1200000BP at the end of the blog. Does this date happens to be the ‘100 years’ of ‘snowy winter’ as well as 1st mention of Lion in rgveda?
    Kindly illumine.

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    1. Namaste,
      My conjecture is that the lions which are present in Rg veda and Brahmanas are majestic in appearance etc. Rg veda only knows three-five seasons while later vedas emerges with six seasons. Seasons are experiential and Sushruta or Charaka mentions them very precisely so as to follow for the human body’s three humors variation to get in sync with the seasons. Thus, the change in seasonal patterns where rains are scanty and lauded for and where Hima is profuse and hemanta prolonged with no devas assigned to this season makes us understand that this text is speaking about Pleistocene times. This is my conjecture. Now how to understand what kind of lions our sages were seeing that brahmana assigned the hide of Lion to the hierarchically to the best Yajmaana gives us an imagery of Panthera spelaea [Fossil lion remains were found in Pleistocene deposits in West Bengal] in sync with the seasonal pattern of Rg veda. The other species of lion that roamed in India must have been P. l. Sinhaleyus when the Shri Lanka and India was connected as they share same continental shelf during Pleistocene times. The spread of lions across the country till bengal and savannah condition across India also suggest the scarcity of tigers in this peninsula at-least in Vedic land( Saraswati Fan) and by the side of Ganges till Bengal. This imagery fulfills all the conditions visible in Rg veda. The research papers are attached herewith.

      http://www.i-scholar.in/index.php/JGSI/article/view/108954#
      https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237009731_A_second_extinct_big_cat_from_the_Late_Quaternary_of_Sri_Lanka

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