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Crossing the waters of darkness: Solar Imagery in the Mythology of the Aśvins
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology, History of Religions.
2017 (English)In: Zeitschrift für Indologie und Südasienstudien, ISSN 2193-9144, Vol. 34, p. 185-213Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In the hymns to the Aśvins in the Ṛgveda, we sometimes come upon the expression “the (farther) shore (pārá-) of darkness (támas-).” Though sometimes used as a metaphor for the dawn, this expression, it is argued, is based in the mythology of these two deities, who are elsewhere praised for having saved mythical figures like Bhujyu from drowning in an unfathomable sea which in some passages is simply referred to as a “darkness.” This “darkness” is traversed by the Aśvins by means of a flying ship. Some scholars have seen traces of an old solar myth here: the Aśvins, who are closely connected with the morning twilight, saving the sun from sinking in the nocturnal ocean. This paper further argues that there is an eschatological dimension to the image of the darkness-sea, as can be seen from the Vedic use of támas- “darkness” to denote the underworld. Sometimes we find mention of a “crossing” (root tr̥-) of this darkness by means of a ship, which is how the world of the ancestors is reached after death. Lastly, I take a look at the adjective asū́rta- “sunless, not lit by the sun,” used to describe both the “darkness” of the underworld and the ocean traversed by the Aśvins. This adjective has cognates in other Indo-European languages, which, as others have suggested, may point to an old inherited mythologem of the dark, sunless waters of the underworld.

Keywords Eschatology, Vedic religion, Indo-European, Ṛgveda, mythology

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Ute Hempen Verlag, 2017. Vol. 34, p. 185-213
National Category
Humanities and the Arts History of Religions
Research subject
History of Religions; Linguistics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-365205OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-365205DiVA, id: diva2:1262341
Available from: 2018-11-11 Created: 2018-11-11 Last updated: 2018-11-21Bibliographically approved

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Norelius, Per-Johan

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