When you invite guests over for dinner, you ensure your food meets their preferences; you don't want to be serving nihari to a vegetarian. Ditto for gods. When you invoke them, you offer them food that they are partial to. Indra, for example, likes to drink so you give him the somaras. To Pushan, you give करम्भ because he has no teeth [करम्भ, karambh, watery khichdi].
Accounts of how Pushan lost his teeth differ but what remains constant in these accounts is that Rudra was the reason for the loss.
There isn't much love lost between Pushan and Rudra. In fact, Rudra is also known as पूषण-असुहृद [ Pushan-asuhrid, non-friend of Pushan]. In one of the hymns, Rudra is asked to keep away from animals. Animals, you see, are Pushan's wards because Pushan is पशुपा [pashupa, herdsman].
अजाश्वः पशुपा वाजपस्त्यो धियंजिन्वो भुवने विश्वे अर्पितः | अष्ट्रां पूषा शिथिरामुद्वरीव्र्जत संचक्षाणोभुवना देव ईयते ||
There Pushan is riding his goat-chariot, brandishing his golden lance, guarding cattle. He who's powerful, who sees everything. [RV 6:58]
Pushan guards cattle, brings them home safely at dusk, and even finds those that have strayed from the herd and lost themselves.
All of this is possible because Pushan knows the paths, lanes, and bylanes like the back of his hand. He is invoked before journeys, all sorts of journeys; even such journeys as a marriage.
पूषा त्वेतो नयतु हस्तगृह्य...गृहान् गच्च गृहपत्नी यथासौ वशिनी त्वम् विदथं आ वदासि O Pushan, lead her by hand to her household, where as mistress she may order her people around. [RV 10:85:26]
Speaking of journeys, there are some people who think souls travel. From this world to that; from here to beyond. But how, exactly, would a soul know the path to travel? Pushan guides the souls. He is विमुचो नपात [vimucho napat, son of deliverance].
पूषा त्वेतश् च्यावयतु प्र विद्वान् अनष्टपशुर् भुवनस्य गोपाः | स त्वैतेभ्यः परि ददत् पितृभ्यो 'ग्निर् देवेभ्यः सुविदत्रियेभ्यः ||
May Pushan, guard of the world, whose cattle is never injured, take you (soul) there, for he knows. [AV, 18:2:54]
Pushan knows because he is the light sun, travelling from one sphere to another. He rides high, sees everything, knows all.
हिरण्यमयेन पात्रेण सत्यस्यापिहिंत मुखम् । तत्वं पुषन्नपावृणु सत्य धर्माय दृष्टये ||
The face of truth is covered with a golden lid. Pushan, remove the cover so that I may see the Truth. [IshU, 15]
The prosperity that Pushan gives is not, like Parjanya's, connected with sap or water but with light. Pushan nourishes the soul.
Pushan shares several characteristics with Pan, the Greek god of flocks, shepherds, and country music.
Both are gods of forests, wild animals, shepherds, and pastures. Both are bearded and long-haired; both carry a whip and a saw. Pushan's chariot is pulled by goats; Pan's feet and thighs are goat-like. The difference lies in Pushan's being equated with light. He is glowing [आघृणि, Aghrini] and leads one to true knowledge.
तेजोऽयसो न धाराम् ||
Sharpens his flame like a blade of iron [RV, 6:3]
That's a description of Agni, the fire god. Agni (Sanskrit) - Ignis (Latin) - Ugnis (Lithuanian) - Ogni (Pre-Slavic). An omniscient being. Agni, present in humans as the five fires: desire, anger, greed, envy, hunger. Eats the insides, bites like a scorpion, makes you skeletal.
Agni, reaching right up to the skies, is the messenger of the gods, ferrying them to yagna and carrying the oblations up to them. This role, though, is not something that Agni took on willingly. In fact, he got so tired of the thankless job that he went and hid himself. Pandemonium ensued. Not only could the gods no longer nourish themselves through yagna offerings, the humans couldn't cook their food either. So the gods told Agni:
एहि मनुर्देवयु: यज्ञकामो अरंकृत्य तमसि क्षेसि अग्ने | सुगन् पथः कृणुहि देवयानान् वः हव्यानि सुमनस्यमानः ||
Wherever you've hidden yourself, in waters or in trees, o Agni, please come out and carry our offerings. [RV, 10:51]
Agni replied, "Three of my brothers, who were on this job, have gone away like charioteers in war, never to return. I am afraid."
"Worry not", said the gods. "We not only make you immortal, we also decree that a portion of the yagna offerings are yours alone."
Thus did Agni come to be the mouth and tongue of the gods, and to reside in the home and hearth of humans. Agni is an honoured guest in every household. Agni is a god but lives with humans because he is the bridge, through the daily yagnas, between the divines and the mortals. He is प्रति मर्ताँ अवासयो दमूना [pratimartam avasayo damuna, friend of the homestead. RV 3:1].
Thus it was that Agni lived too in the homes of the seven sages, the Sapta Rishis, and thrice daily carried their oblations to the gods. While living there, he got besotted with the wives of these sages. But realising the uselessness of his desires, he grew wan and unhappy. By the law of the triangle, while Agni loved the sages' wives, he himself was loved by Svaha, who hit upon an idea to get Agni to herself. Svaha took, by succession, the form of each of the sages' wives, called Agni to the forests, and romanced him. This happened six times but when it was time for Svaha to impersonate the seventh wife, Anusuya, she couldn't. Anusuya was so chaste that Svaha couldn't even impersonate her. Anyway, what happened by this romance was that six times Svaha and Agni spent blissful moments in each other's company (Agni being unaware of the impersonation) and thus was born the six-headed Kartikeya, also called अग्निभुः [agnibhuh, Agni's son]. Kartikeya, the mighty, is the fierce general of the gods.
I will not dwell on the further complications of this affair but it all culminated in the decree that no offering to the fire can be complete unless the word "Svaha" is uttered when a libation is poured in. Agni and Svaha were thus forever bound.
This story of Agni's indiscretion is post-vedic and is likely an attempt to incorporate Kartikeya, a non-vedic figure, into the vedic fold.
Agni is butter-backed, butter-faced, and butter-haired. It is evident that butter and ghee are his favourite food. He has sharp burning jaws, his chariot leaves black tracks; he is smoke-bannered. Driven by the wind, he rushes through the woods, invades forests, and shears hair from earth like a barber shaving someone's beard.
तपुर्जम्भो वन आ वातचोदितो यूथे न साह्वाँ अव वाति वंसगः । अभिव्रजन्नक्षितं पाजसा रज स्थातुश्चरथं भयते पतत्रिणः ||
Aflame, wind-borne, Agni strikes the moisture in trees and rushes triumphant in the forest, leaving all trembling in his wake [RV 1:58]
His immense power dispels evil spirits and black magic. He is रक्षोहन् [rakshohan, demon killer].
अग्ने त्वचं यातुधानस्य भिन्धि हिंस्राशनिर्हरसा हन्त्वेनम् । प्र पर्वाणि जातवेदो शृणीहि क्रव्यात्क्रविष्णुर्वि चिनोतु वृक्णम् ।।
Flesh-loving flesh-eating Agni! Cut through the skin of Yatudhana (Rakshas), cut his joints, destroy him with your thunderbolt. [RV 10:87]
This terrible क्रव्याद [kravyad, raw flesh eating] form of Agni is not often invoked. Agni in this form is asked to stay away. Agni is oftener invoked as the friend of the householder, a much more benign form.
Agni is the only god that's been called द्विजन्मा [dvijanma, twice-born], so far as I can tell.
वह्निं यशसं विदथस्य केतुं सुप्राव्यं दूतं सद्योर्थम | दविजन्मानं रयिमिव परशस्तं रातिं भरद भर्गवेमातरिश्वा ||
Matarishvan brought you, O twice born Agni, as a precious treasure to the Bhrigus.[RV 1:60]
द्विजन्मा is explained in three ways: (i) born twice, first from ignition and second after the libation is poured (ii) born in two places, at heaven and at earth, Dyaus and Prithvi being called the parents of Agni (iii) born of two sticks, called Arani.
The Aranis are two sticks, the upper, in the form of a drill, is of hardwood Asvattha and the lower, in the form of a slab, of softwood Sami. The fire is produced by friction, either by twirling the drill by ropes (like butter is churned) or by hand.
Agni, born in the heavens, was brought to earth by Matarishvan and given to the Bhrigus. On earth, Agni was produced by rishi Atharva. The arani-set used for creating fire is called Pramantha, which is from the same root as 'math', the verb for churning (butter, thoughts, oceans ...). Despite Agni being ancient, he is born daily as a child. He never ages because his new light never differs from the old.
जुजुरवान यो मुहुरा युवा भूत
though growing old, becomes young again[RV 2:4]
Is that the reason why they light a lamp at births? And deaths? And all beginnings?
The sandhiprakash (twilight) raga Deepak, a rarely performed raga in Hindustani classical music, is based on Agni. A twilight is when one part of the day dies, giving birth to another...when light is diffused, mellow, and pregnant with possibilities.
A long time ago, the gods and the humans both lived on earth. Then, as the human population increased, the gods shifted to the heavens. The gods told Agni that, in their absence, Agni should continue the divine duty of looking after the humans. The gods also asked Agni to be the bridge between the divines and the mortals, carrying oblations heavenwards and gods earthward. Agni said, "My form is terrible. Mortals fear me, they run away from me, they hesitate to even come near." So the gods then transferred Agni's consuming form to water, purifying form to air, and brilliant form to the sun. From then on, Agni, despite being immortal, started living on earth in every home as an honoured guest [अतिथि, atithi, guest].
Agni lives in every house. Whenever he arrives, he is like a father returning from travels, bearing gifts for everyone. Many are the gifts that Agni has bestowed on them who've asked. He gave the sudarshan chakra to Krishna. To Arjun, he gave the Gandiv bow, two never-get-empty quivers, and the ape-bannered chariot with four golden horses. To Dashrath, Agni gave the sweet porridge that resulted in the birth of those four famed princes: Ram, Bharat, Lakshman, and Shatrughna. To Drupad, he gave the awesome warrior son Dhrishtadyumna and the drop-dead-beautiful daughter Draupadi, a woman so beautiful that she caused heartburn wherever she went. And, to Ram, Agni returned Sita who'd sought to immolate herself. Agni rose out of his flames, bearing Sita in his lap, and told Ram:
एष ते राम वैदेही पापमस्यां न विद्यते | विशुद्धभावां निष्पापां प्रतिगृह्णीष्व राघव ||
Here, Ram, is Vaidehi, who has not an iota of badness in her. She is sinless, pure. [VR, Yuddh Kaand 121:5]
Agni is pure, and purifying. Gold has to undergo a trial by fire to become pure. Agni has three sons: Paavak, Pavmaan, and Shuchi. All three names mean pure, clear. Agni's three sons reside in the three fires of householders: garhapatya, ahavaniya, and dakshinagni. Garhaptya is the housholder's fire that passes from father to son. Dakshinagni is the hearth fire; ahavaniya the altar fire.
Because Agni is present in every home, he is लोक साक्षी [lok sakshi, world witness] and जातवेदस् [jatvedas, all knowing]. Agni was witness to the friendship treaty between Ram and Sugreev. And Agni, till today, is witness to a Hindu marriage, which is not deemed complete unless the bride and the groom take seven steps together around the fire.
The vedic Agni has many similarities with the Iranian Atar. Both are gods of fire. Just like Agni is the child of Dyaus, the universal father, Atar is the child of Ahura Mazda, the supreme being. Agni is sometimes referred to as the weapon or thunderbolt of Indra. Atar is the main weapon with which Ahura Mazda kills demons. Just like the vedic religion had three fires, garhaptya, ahavaniya, and dakshinagni, so does the Iranian, home, village, and community. The Iranian Athravans were the priests of the fire, Atar. The vedic Atharva was the person who first produced fire. Besides, Agni is often referred to as 'priest' himself.
त्वमग्ने यज्ञानां होता
You, Agni, the priest at sacrifices. [RV 6:16]
Just like Agni is often called Grihapati, master of the house, so is Atar said to be 'master of every house'. The difference lies in that the Iranians did not offer oblations to fire, which was never used by them to send up offerings to the gods. Trivia: The Farsi word for fire, Atish, is derived from the Persian (Iranian) Atar.
In the olden days, when the season of thunderclouds arrived, people exclaimed, "It's Parjanya, riding his ghanshyam chariot pulled by water horses, shedding rain like the roar of distant lions."
प्रवृद्ध इव पर्जन्यः सारङ्गैरभिनन्दितः
Swollen like thunderclouds being extolled by thirsting chatakas
[Raghuvamsha 17:15, Kalidas]
Parjanya has only a few hymns in the Rig Ved. He is thought of as immense, with a massive appetite, and someone who kils demons with a lightning bolt. Etymologically, the name could mean any of these four things, as explained by Yaska in his Nirukta:(i) Gives satisfaction to humans (ii) Conquerer (iii) Progenitor (iv) Juice provider.
पर्जन्यस्.तृपेर्.आदि.अन्त.विपरीतस्य् तर्पयिता जन्यः । परो जेता वा, जनयिता वा, प्रार्जयिता वा रसानामिति ||
[Nirukta 10:10, Yaska]
Although only a few hymns are addressed to Parjanya, he is stated to have inspired frogs.
संवत्सरं शशयाना बराह्मणा वरतचारिणः | वाचं पर्जन्यजिन्वितां पर मण्डूका अवादिषुः ||
यदीमेनानुशतो अभ्यवर्षीत तर्ष्यावतः पराव्र्ष्यागतायाम | अख्खलीक्र्त्या पितरं न पुत्रो अन्यो अन्यमुप वदन्तमेति ||
अन्यो अन्यमनु गर्भ्णात्येनोरपां परसर्गे यदमन्दिषाताम | मण्डूको यदभिव्र्ष्टः कनिष्कन पर्ष्निः सम्प्र्ङकते हरितेन वाचम ||
यदेषामन्यो अन्यस्य वाचं शाक्तस्येव वदति शिक्षमाणः | सर्वं तदेषां सम्र्धेव पर्व यत सुवाचो वदथनाध्यप्सु ||
The frogs, motionless the entire year like Brahmanas in penance, are loudly praising Parjanya upon the arrival of rains. Thirsty and longing for rain, they jump with joy and greet each other like children running to their father with cries of delight. There, the speckled frog leaps up to greet the green one; there, they repeat each other's cries like students repeating lessons after their teacher.
Post-vedic texts have references to Parjanya but not possibly to the same Vedic figure. The Mahabharat, for example, has a gandharv and also an aditya of that name. And then, there's that Puranic story where Uttank goes chasing Takshak who stole the golden earrings and entered Patal. Uttank sees a comely man (Parjanya) with a white horse (Agni); the significance of thundershowers and fire together in the netherworld, guiding someone who's been robbed, escapes me though. Today, Parjanya survives as गर्जन मेघ [garjan-megh, thundering raincloud].
Saraswati, the best among rivers.
अम्बितमे नदीतमे देवितमे सरस्वति |
best of mothers, best of rivers, best of goddesses [RV 2:41]
She is a swelling, mighty stream, flowing from the mountains to the sea. She purifies. She nourishes. She is सुभगा [subhaga, bountiful]. She is like an iron fort. She protects with her might, she gives abundantly with her waters, she is at once a mother and a guard.
यस्या अनन्तो अह्रुतस्त्वेषश्चरिष्णुरर्णवः। अमश्चरति रोरुवत् ॥ सा नो विश्वा अति दविषः सवसॄरन्या रतावरी | अतन्नहेव सूर्यः ||
Of infinite strength, roaring, may she defeat our enemies and bring to us her riverine sisters like sun leading the days. [RV, 6:61]
It is easy to imagine the settlements along her fertile banks, of people singing her praises and tending to their livestock or farms. That is why the poet prays thus to her,
"Please send me not away from here to distant countries"
जुषस्व नः सख्या वेश्या च मा त्वत्क्षेत्राण्यरणानि गन्म
Saraswati is home. Her banks are where you sleep, sing, and think. सरस्वती साधयन्ति धियं नः |
Saraswati, of the rushing, refreshing waters, gave a child, Divodas, to king Vadhrashva. As children don't self-manifest on rivers, I imagine a basket floating down the river, bearing a gurgling infant, abandoned like Moses or Karna. Or, maybe the parents were travelling somewhere and their boat capsized, and the child was borne away on a plank ... who knows?
Divodas went on to become a big king. He defeated the Shambhars and occupied vast tracts of fertile land along the Saraswati river.
His descendant, Sudas, ruled the entire land between Saraswati and Parushni, and successfully countered an attack on his western borders. On one side were Sudas and his allies; on the other were several other Aryan tribes headed by Turvashu. It was the Battle of the Ten Kings; it was almost a civil war.
Sudas's army marched westwards from Saraswati, crossed Satudri and Vipasa, and camped along the Parushni, ready for battle. The enemies planned to divert the waters of the Parushni and drown Sudas's hopelessly outnumbered army, but something went wrong with the enemy's water engineering. The waters did change direction, as the enemy had intended, but incorrectly. Great torrents gushed forth on the enemy itself and washed them away.
Sudas, after this riddance of foes, held a big thank-you sacrifice on the banks of Saraswati. At the holiest of spots.
पृथिव्या इळायास्पदे...दृषद्वत्यां...सरस्वत्यां... ||
At this most lovely spot on earth, the banks of Drishadvati and Saraswati. [RV, 3:23]
At some point in later time, Sudas's protector Saraswati, the river, morphed into Saraswati, the goddess of speech. Is it because rivers, in their loveliness, inspire the sweetest of songs?
The gods could not agree upon who should have the first drinking rights to Soma. To settle the issue, they decided to have a race. Vayu won, followed by Indra who collapsed at the finishing line panting, turned to Vayu, and said, "See? I won!"
"Oh no, you absolutely did not", exclaimed Vayu. "I did."
"Okay, if I give you half the Soma, will you declare that I won?" offered Indra.
"Nope, I won", said Vayu.
"Uh, two-thirds of the Soma, then", Indra upped the offer.
"Nope, I won", said Vayu.
Thus it came to pass that whenever people offered Soma to their gods, of the first offering, three parts went to Vayu and one to Indra. The other gods get to drink Soma only after these two have had their portions. And Vayu, they say, drinks Soma neat. Vayu, the the handsome, roaring, swift runner.
त्वां हि सुप्सरस्तमं || you, who are exceedingly good-looking [RV 8:26]
वायवे ... क्रन्ददिष्टये || Vayu, moving fast noisily [RV 10:100]
Vayu is the swiftest among all gods and the strongest. He roams, at will, the expanse between earth and sky. He cannot be seen, only heard.
क्क स्विज्जात कुतः आ बभूव...यथावशं चरति देव एषः | घोषा इदस्य शर्ण्विरे न रूपं...
Wherefrom he comes, where is he born? He roams wherever his fancy takes him. He cannot be seen, only his roar is heard. [RV, 10:168]
Vayu seems to be a very close friend of Indra's because he's the only one who's ever been called इन्द्रसारथी [ Indrasarathi, charioteer of Indra].
Once, the rishi Vishwamitra started such severe penance that Indra got worried. He thought that the rishi was after his heavenly throne. So he sent the courtesan Menaka to distract the sage, and also sent Vayu along with Menaka, with express instructions to him to blow away her clothes at an opportune moment. We all know what happened thereafter. The rishi was so distracted from his penances that Shakuntala was born. But we digress. Vayu...blows. He clears the stench away from earth, and is therefore called पवन [pavan, clean, pure].
Once, Soma became impure and started emitting a foul smell. The gods then asked Vayu to blow away the stench and make Soma tasteful again. The Atharva Veda says Soma becomes holy by the purifying effect of Vayu [वायोः पूतः पवित्रेण प्रत्यङ् सोमो अति द्रुतः ].
प्र ण आयूंषि तारिषत् || Prolong our lives [RV, 10:186]
Because, Vayu is the life force in humans. If he doesn't move, we cannot breathe. And when Vayu moves, he does so with a roar, stirring up the earth and covering everything with ruddy particles of dust.
रुजन्नेति स्तनयन्नस्य घोषः | दिविस्पृग्याति अरुणानि कृण्वन उतो एति पृथिव्या रेणुमस्यन् || [RV, 10:168]
The lyrics in the following piece are an ode to प्राण [ Pran, life breath] which is nothing but Vayu by another name.
अपानति प्राणति पुरुषो गर्भे अन्तरा | यदा त्वं प्राण जिन्वस्य् अथ स जायते पुनः || प्राणम् आहुर् मातरिश्वानं वातो ह प्राण उच्यते | प्राणे ह भूतं भव्यं च प्राणे सर्वं प्रतिष्ठितम् ||
The being, breathing in the womb, is born again when you, Pran, push it out. It is Vayu who is called Pran, on whom depends the past, the future, everything. [AV, 11:4:14, 15]
In short, प्राणो वै वायुः || Vayu is Pran || [TS 5:1:5]
Because Vayu that dwells within beings is expelled as speech, Vayu is extremely eloquent. For his sweetness of speech and also because he is swift and can go anywhere, Vayu is often employed as an ambassador by the gods. And finally, Vayu resides in the seven notes of musical instruments
Gods self manifest themselves; they're just....there. Sometimes, they're born of other gods. And sometimes, mortals become gods. Like the Ribhus - three brothers named Ribhukshan, Vibhavan, and Vaja - who were not divine to begin with but were deified by the gods themselves. The dexterity and skill of the Ribhus so pleased the gods that the rights to the evening oblations were made over to these brothers.
इदाह्नः पीतिमुत वो मदं धुर्न ऋते श्रान्तस्य सख्याय देवाः । ते नूनमस्मे ऋभवो वसूनि तृतीये अस्मिन्त्सवने दधात ॥
Here, Ribhus, is your drink, our 3rd offering of the day, marked for you by the gods whose friendship is for those who toil. [RV 4:33]
Perceptions can change. Minor gods of one era become the most invoked ones in another; the movers and shakers of one era fade into oblivion in another. Once great gods like Vayu no longer have place today in public adoration. Mere rivers like Saraswati are venerated today as goddesses of learning. But sometimes, minor gods remain minor or fade into oblivion, like the Ribhusdid. The Ribhus survive today in name only, when an occasional parent names their son 'Ribhu'.
So, who are these Ribhus? They are master craftsmen. Their fingers have magic; they are सुहस्ता [suhasta, dexterous]. With deftness and skill, the Ribhus fashion things of great beauty.
What all did the Ribhus do that so pleased the gods? Five grand feats of theirs find repeated mention in the books. To begin with, they made a horseless chariot for the Ashwins.
अनश्वो जातो अनभीशुर उक्थ्यो रथस्त्रिचक्रः परि वर्तते रजः...
This three-wheeled chariot, needing neither horses nor reins, that speeds along the heavens... [RV, 4:36]
Now, the Ashwins are honey-hued healers, rushing everywhere to bring comfort to the distressed. What if they did not need to stop the chariot to change tired horses for fresh ones? What if their hands were busy mixing their potions rather than holding the reins? What if the Ashwins' chariot ran on air, guided by mere thought? Awe-inspiring, right? Everyone else thought so too.
महत तद वो देव्यस्य परवाचनं दयाम रभवः पर्थिवीं यच च पुष्यथ ||
Loud and clear is the proclamation of your divine powers, O Ribhus. [RV, 4:36]
The vedic texts speak of 33 gods. Not 33 crores, as is commonly believed today.
ये देवासो दिव्येकादश स्थ पृथिव्यामध्येकादश स्थ। अप्सुक्षितो महिनैकादश स्थ ते देवासो यज्ञमिमं जुषध्वम्।।
O gods, eleven in heaven, eleven on earth, and eleven in mid-air, please accept our sacrifice. [RV 1:139]
So where did the 33 crore figure spring from? My theory: peoples' imagination. People just kept adding their favourite gods to the pantheon, lost count, and tagged zeroes to 33 to make up a sufficiently huge figure. Because, well, gods are everywhere. Every thing is a god; every person is potentially divine. Like the Ribhus, whose second grand feat was the cow they made for an orphaned calf, which had lost its mother and was crying piteously. The Ribhus fashioned a skeleton, covered it with flesh, draped it with a cow's hide, and breathed life into it.
निश्चर्मणो गामरिणीत धीतिभिर्या
From a hideless cow, you formed a living one [RV 1:161]
After having reunited the calf with its mother [वत्सेनासृजता मातरं पुनः, vatsen srijita mataram punah], the Ribhus went on to create a third marvel. They made their aged parents young again जिव्री युवाना पितराकृणोतन [jivri yuvana pitarakrinotan, RV 1:110].
The Ribhus were the sons of Sudhanva (I couldn't find their mother's name anywhere). Sudhanva and his wife had become old, frail, and weak. They could do nothing except lie there like decaying logs of wood यूपेव जरणा शयना [yupev jarana shayana, RV 4:33]. That's when their skillful sons stepped in.
जिव्री यत्सन्ता पितरा सनाजुरा पुनर्युवाना चरथाय तक्षथ ||
You made your parents young, and able to roam at will. [RV 4:36]
A word that is often associated with the Ribhus is तक्ष् [taksh, carve, fashion]. Their fourth feat was the pair of obedient horses they fashioned for Indra. But it is their fifth feat that is the most celebrated. They took the shining cup of Tvashtr and fashioned four smaller cups out of it. Now, Tvashtr is something like an engineer of the gods. He is the skilful workman who made the thunderbolt of Indra. Tvashtr gave shape to all forms - human and animal - that roam this universe. He develops the embryo in the womb. He produced a horse and breathed speed into it. He sharpens the iron axe of Brahmanaspati. And, he created the golden cup from which the gods drink Soma. It is this cup that caught the fancy of the Ribhus. (And remember, they were mortal while Tvashtr was a god.)
जयेष्ठ आह चमसा दवा करेति कनीयान्त्रीनकृन्वामेत्याह | कनिष्ठ आह चतुरस करेति ... ||
The eldest said, 'Lets's split this into two.' The younger said, 'No, three' but the youngest cried 'Four, four!' [RV 4:33]
On seeing the four shining cups, Tvashtr was dumbstruck. He was, in fact, so awed that he went and hid his face in shame. The gods were impressed as well, and they raised the Ribhus to godhood.
किंमयः स्विच्चमस एष आस यं काव्येन चतुरो विचक्र | अथा सुनुध्वं सवनं मदाय पात ऋभवो मधुनः सोम्यस्य ||
What kind of a cup was that which you skillfully made into four? Pour the Soma now. Drink, Ribhus, of this sweet juice. [RV 4:35]
The eldest, Vaja, became the general engineer of the gods; the younger, Ribhukshan, of Indra; the youngest, Vibhavan, of Varun. By the dint of their labour, the Ribhus became gods.
To be done: Aditi, Varun, the Ashwins, Indra, Soma, Rudra, Pani, Vrittra, Vala, ............