Devi Upanishad – Rishi Atharvan

Sri Saraswati Devi

Devi Upanishad by Rishi Atharvan

Om! Devas! With ears let us hear what is good;
Adorable ones! With eyes let us see what is good.
With steady limbs, with bodies, praising,
Let us enjoy the life allotted by the Gods.
May Indra, of wide renown, grant us well-being;
May Pusan, and All-Gods, grant us well-being.
May Tarksya, of unhampered movement, grant us well-being.
May Brihaspati grant us well-being.
Om! Peace! Peace! Peace!

1.  All the Devas waited upon Devi (and asked): “Maha Devi, who art Thou?”

2.  She replied: I am essentially Brahman. From Me (has proceeded) the world comprising Prakriti and Purusha, the void and the plenum. I am (all forms of) bliss and non-bliss. Knowledge and ignorance are Myself. Brahman and non-Brahman are to be known—says the scripture of the Atharvans.

3.  I am the five elements as also what is different from them. I am the entire world. I am the Veda as well as what is different from it. I am the unborn; I am the born. Below and above and around am I.

4.  I move with Rudras and Vasus, with Adityas and Visvedevas. Mitra and Varuna, Indra and Agni, I support, and the two Asvins.

5.  I uphold Soma, Tvastir, Pusan and Bhaga, the wide-stepping Vishnu, Brahma, Prajapati.

6.  To the zealous sacrificer offering oblation and pressing the Soma juice do I grant wealth; I am the nation, the Bringer of Wealth; Above it all, place I its protector.

7.  Whoso knows My essence in the water of the inner sea, attains Devi’s abode.

8.  Those Devas said: Salutation to Devi, Maha Devi! To Siva, the auspicious, salutation, for ever more. To blessed Prakriti, salutation! Ever to Her we bow.

9.  Refuge I seek in Her who is the colour of fire, Burning with ascetic ardour, Goddess resplendent, delighting in actions’ fruits; O Thou, hard to reach, dispel Thy gloom.

10. The Devas engendered divine Speech; Her, beasts of all forms speak; The cow that yields sweet fruits and vigour—To us may lauded Speech appear.

11. To holy Siva, to Daksha’s daughter, To Aditi and Saraswati, To Skanda’s mother, Vishnu’s power, To Night of Death by Brahma lauded, We render obeisance.

12. Know we Great Lakshmi, Goddess of good fortune; On all fulfilment do we meditate. May the Goddess inspire us!

13. Through You, Dakshayani, was Aditi born; She is your daughter; after her were born the Gods auspicious, friends of deathlessness.

14. Love, womb, love’s part, the bearer of the thunderbolt, the cave, ha-sa, the wind, the cloud, Indra; again the cave, sa-ka-la with Maya. So runs the full primeval science begetting all.

15. This is the power of Self, enchanting all, armed with the noose, the hook, the bow and the arrow. This is the great and holy Science.

16. Who knows thus tides over grief.

17. Divine Mother! Salutation to You; protect us in all possible ways.

18. She, here, is the eight Vasus, the eleven Rudras, the twelve Adityas, She is the All-Gods, (those) who drink Soma and (those) who do not; She is the goblins, the demons, the evil beings, the ghosts; She also, beings super-human, the semi-divine. She is Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. She is Prajapati, Indra and Manu. She is the planets, stars and luminous spheres. She is the divisions of time, and the form of primeval Time. I salute Her ever:

19. Goddess who banishes distress, grants pleasure and deliverance alike, infinite, victorious, pure, Siva, refuge, the giver of good.

20. Seed all-powerful of Devi’s mantra, is sky, conjoined with ‘I’ and fire, with crescent moon adorned.

21. On the single-syllabled mantra meditate the pure-hearted sages, supremely blissful; of wisdom the veriest oceans.

22. Fashioned by speech; born of Brahman; the sixth with face equipped; the sun; the left ear where the point is; the eighth and the third conjoint.

23. The air, with Narayana united, and with the lip; vicce, the nine-lettered; the letter, shall delight the lofty ones.

24. Seated in the lotus-heart, resplendent as the morning sun, Devi, bearing noose and hook, with gesture granting boons, dissolving fears; tender, three-eyed, red-robed, granting devotees their hearts’ desires, Thee I adore.

25. I bow to Thee, Goddess, Thou dispeller of gravest fears, vanquisher of obstacles; Thou wearer of great mercy’s form.

26. Brahma and others know not Her essence; so is She called the Unknowable. She has no end; so is She called the Endless. She is not grasped and so is She called the Incomprehensible. Her birth is not known and so is She called the Unborn. She alone is present everywhere, and so is She called the One. She alone wears all forms, and so is She called the Many. For these reasons is She called the Unknowable, the Endless, the Incomprehensible, the Unknown, the One and the Many.

27. The Goddess is the source of all mantras: Of all the words the knowledge is Her form. Her conscious form transcends all cognitions; She is the witness of all emptiness.

28. Beyond Her is nothing; renowned is She as unapproachable; afeared of life, I bow to the inaccessible One, bulwark against all sins; the Pilot who steers me across the sea of worldly life.

29. He who studies this Atharva Upanishad gains the fruit of repeating five (other) Atharva Upanishads; he who, having mastered this Atharva Upanishad, persists in worship.

30. Of this vidya ten million chants are less than the worship’s fruit. Eight and hundred recitations thereof make but this rite’s inauguration.

31. Who reads it but ten times, is released at once from sins; Through the grace of Maha Devi, tides he over obstacles great.

32. Reading it in the morning one destroys the sins of the night; reading it in the evening one destroys the sins committed by day. Thus, reading both in the evening and morning, the sinner becomes sinless. Reading it midnight, too, the fourth “junction,” there results perfection of speech. Its recitation before a new image brings to it the presence of the deity. Its recitation at the time of consecration (of an image) makes it a centre of energy. Reciting it on Tuesday under the asterism Ashvini, in the presence of the Great Goddess, one overcomes fell death. One who knows this, this is the secret.

Om! Gods! With ears let us hear what is good;
Adorable ones! With eyes let us see what is good.
With steady limbs, with bodies, praising,
Let us enjoy the life allotted by the Gods.
May Indra, of wide renown, grant us well-being;
May Pusan, and All-Gods, grant us well-being.
May Tarksya, of unhampered movement, grant us well-being.
May Brihaspati grant us well-being.
Om! Peace! Peace! Peace!

Here ends the Devi Upanishad, included in the Atharva Veda.


20 Responses

  1. Postscript : the quote on aham rashtri is on page 26 of the book Raashtram. This chapter (page 26-61) is then taken up with the occurrence of the word ‘rashtram’ in Devi Mahatmyam, Devi Atharva Shirsha, some of the Upanishads and the Brahmanas.

    IS the sookta above may be from the Devi Atharva Shirsha. Shall write to Dr. K and ask him.


  2. In his book Rashtram (2011) Dr. S. Kalyanraman, Director of the Sarasvati Research Centre (Chennai) has this to say in the section titled ‘Early Reference to Rashtram (Rashtri femm.):

    “What is a Rashtram in Hindu thought? Early explanations are provided in the world’s oldest human document, Rigveda in the Vak sukta (RV 10.125) by Rishika Vagambhrini who renders the sukat in atmasthuthi (first person narrative) with the famous words: aham Rasthri sangamanii vasunam (I am the Rashtra, moving people together for wealth creation or abhuydayam, general welfare).”

    She is the daughter of Rishi Ambhrini. The sukata is repeated at the end of Devi Mahatmya.


  3. Additional meaning for rAShTrI: female sovereign (like queen/empress).

    However, taking it together with the “sa~NgamanI” in “aham rAShTrI sa~NgamanI”:
    sa~Ngam and sa~Ngamana: gathering/meeting of people. Such as especially happened in Vedic society during state decisions, when the people gathered to partake.

    In such a case, I imagine sa~NgamanI can represent an identity with that gathering itself: she IS the gathering of the Vedic Hindus. And “rAShTrI sa~NgamanI” can then indeed still be read as the Hindu state and its Vedic society; the Vedic/Hindu land and its Vedic/Hindu people.

    This would not be an un-sensible reading, since devI is the embodiment of Vedic dharma, and Vedic governance — including the Vedic society attending these gatherings of their Hindu sovereign — is very much an act of Vedic dharma. After all, why else would descriptions of the Hindu governance in Vedic times feature in the Vedas, unless it conformed with its dharma?


  4. 1. ” the rashtri of the Rig Veda”

    Does this mean you’ve now confirmed the mention of rAShTrI in the Rig too?

    2. “it would be interesting if there is a conscious link in the later texts to the rashtri of the Rig Veda”

    Which later texts?

    From what I can make out, Hindus don’t regard the Rig as predating the other 3 Vedas. As I understand it, a yagnya always required Rig, yajur-, sAma (and optionally/preferrably atharvana) vedins to carry it out. That is, all 4 or at least 3 were represented. And apparently, in the breaks in between a great yagnya, other designated Hindus [suta-s they were called, from what I remember reading] were telling the bystanders the mahApurANa. This was in “Vedic times”.

    But, certainly all later Hindu texts proceed from the 4 Vedas (the trayI, which includes the implicit — unspoken since it appears to have been more secret — fourth veda) and the Agama. (By which last Hindus apparently don’t mean the later Hindu texts carrying the name of “agama”, but the earlier oral tradition by that name. The later class of texts called “Agamas” also have their origins in the Vedas — i.e. the Nigamas — and the Agamas. But “Agama” — and not just Nigama — is apparently another word for the Vedas too. I think the Adi Shankaracharya also repeated this tradition of referring to the Vedas as “Agamas” in a few of his famous stotras. I suppose this is understandable, as it appears both words — Nigama and Agama — have about the same meaning anyway. C.f. nirupama and anupama.)

    Likewise, Hindu tantra’s origins are to be found from the Rig to the Atharva (which last is considered a primordial tantra text, and which would therefore explain why it was particularly secret) as also Hindu Agama. Much later, many Hindu texts specifically bearing the word “tantra” in their name appeared. But that all Hindu tantra has its origins in the Vedas is obvious from the very example of the devyatharvashirSham subject matter — where successive lines unmistakably reference lalitA by describing the ayudhAs that are so particular to her before immediately mentioning her Science the shrI vidyA directly by name.

    3. “it would be interesting if there is a conscious link in the later texts to the rashtri of the Rig Veda”

    Actually that’s sort of related to the comment I came to make: a *sub*consious link that’s to be noticed in very late Hindu tradition, assuming the meaning of rAShTrI is as one supposes it may be. The nationalist movement in the colonial era, particularly with its conscious voicing in “vande mAtaram”, is frequently declared as heralding the start of Hindus envisioning the devI as an embodiment of the Hindu nation (an interconnected combination of the land and the Hindu people/their Hindu/Vedic identity). The popular assumption in the nationalist movement — and perhaps since — was that it was the first to vocalise the Vedic devI(s) as rAShTrI (or even that the notion of “India” was recent and owing to invaders, but I won’t bother going into the latter). Yet, the very example of vande mAtaram shows that it is not original: it specifically speaks of durgA, lakshmI and saraswatI and is no more than a poetic ode — from a latter, dwindling age — to the memory of the devI mahAtmyam, bhAgavatam and atharvashIrSham (and the like). I’m not sure how conscious that was on the part of the Hindu who is credited with composing the vande mAtaram, but clearly the credit for the work (the key inspiration, and its consequent accuracy) lies elsewhere. And it is obviously specifically Vedic (i.e. Hindu). There is no way to make vande mAtaram a “secular” or even merely “Indian” song. It is specifically *Hindu*, regardless of whether the credited composer may or may not have been so specific about its intention. The matter was never in his hands — something for him (or even other Hindus) to decide.


  5. @ARS, it would be interesting if there is a conscious link in the later texts to the rashtri of the Rig Veda. The latter definitely is the embodiment of Vedic society, the collective dharmic state of the time.


  6. I’ve confirmed that the particular durgA sahasranAmam I referred to somewhere above does indeed mention both “mArI” and “grAmadevatA”.

    “mArI” occurs 1/4th of the way through, and “grAmadevatA” occurs nearer the end (well past three-quarters of the way).


  7. Clarification of: “I certainly don’t know anything about the veda. I’ve just listened to it.”

    I mean: “I certainly don’t know anything about the veda. I’ve only *listened* to it (i.e. listened to traditional Hindus reciting from the vedam).”


  8. 1. Vijaya wrote: “The Rig Vedic verse from Book 10, is actually titled Vak. Hence, obviously the reference to Sarasvati, but I could not find the word ‘rashtri’ in it.”

    However, the devyatharvashIrSham verse where Devi mentions she is “rAShTrI” is not a specific reference to Saraswati.

    – There are stanzas from the durgA sUktam in the devyatharvashIrSham (with minor variation I *think*), followed by mention of sarasvatI, aditI (and other Hindu devis) and then a mahAlakShmI gayatrI mantram follows. This shows it’s very much related to the devI bhAgavatam and devI mahAtmyam.

    – Also, from the bits I’ve heard, I keep noticing vedic mantras are repeated throughout the 4 vedas, at times with specific variations. That a sarasvatI mantra from the Rig should be repeated in the Atharvana (with or without variation) seems to fit with this. And that the ‘raShtrI’ reference is absent from the mantra from the Rig while being there in the devyatharvashIrSham is therefore not out of the ordinary (e.g. I *think* the Sri Suktam in the YajuH is longer than in the Rig). Many a Hindu tantra text repeats Veda mantras (including ones from upanishads) with minor alterations too. In all such cases it has to do with the purpose of these mantras, I think, which is why they take different forms (compare the ShaDAkShara shiva mantra from the Yamala/Agama with the pa~nchAkShara shiva mantra from the Veda. They appear to be used slightly differently in Hindu ritual, but are obviously intrinsicly related.)

    2. I don’t know Sanskrit (but some words are obvious as they get repeated in so many stotras, so one can work that out) and I certainly don’t know anything about the veda. I’ve just listened to it.

    Having said that, here’s what I GUESS rAShTri could perhaps mean if it’s supposed to be a reference relating to the Hindu rAShTra: various shlokas in the Vedas refer to aspects of Vedic society, and the Vedic notion of the [Hindu, Vedic] nation state. Apparently, even the Vedas proper describe their system of *governance* in detail too. Which is understandable since in Hindu religion, there was no “secular” state separate from Vedic society: Vedic society *formed* the state, and by definition is founded on (Vedic) Dharma. Therefore, maybe rAShTrI might be a reference to devI as an embodiment of Vedic (i.e. Hindu) society, the Hindu collective of the dharmic state of the time, the “nation” of Vedic Hindus, as it were.

    Then again, I could very easily be wrong and maybe there’s no relation between the Vedas’ describing the collective Hindu society — including its governance — and the self-reference by devI in devyatharvashIrSham.


  9. Forgot to add that the “prAdhAnikam rahasyam”, which is also recited at the end of devI mahAtmyam, mentions durgA’s name mArI too. Once again, this is in the viShNumAyA/kAli section, which preceeds the lakShmI and saraswati (vINApustaka-dhAriNi) sections:

    “mahAmAyA mahAkAlI mahAmArI …”


  10. @IS in his book Reawakening to a Secular Hindu Nation (2008) Dr. Shrinivas Tilak uses the word ‘nation.’ In my opinion an important work in Hindutva literature. However, I am inclined now to simply use the word ‘rashtra’ rather than nation state, owing to the limitations of the latter being a western concept applicable to them.

    Hoping to get back to Tilak’s work and as well Dr.K’s. I was supposed to come to India last year and give some talks on the subject but had to cancel because of family illnesses. I may resume the theme.


  11. Then I would translate ‘rashtri’ as ‘nation’ which includes the community. Or even ‘nation-state’. What do you think?


  12. @IS and ARS

    IS ‘rashtri’ is more than state (body politic) and country. I am coming to the conclusion that it is also the community, culture, civilisation etc. Dr. K’s book Rashtram (2011) is for the aficianado. You and I will find it engrossing, I did. Virtually every para is accompanied by Sanskrit quotes, alternative meaning of words etc. It reads more like a source book than a narrative. I plan to return to it and look at that first chapter, where he goes into the varied meanings of Devi, which includes not only the Rig Vedic verse, plus quotes from Devi Mahatmyam etc.

    ARS : the line aham rashtri sangamanii, is quoted by Dr. K. along with the words abhyudayam (welfare of the people). As I looked at the Griffith translation and Dr. K’s own translations of the 10 mandalas (which also has the Devanagiri) I did not find the word ‘rashtri’ specifically.

    The Rig Vedic verse from Book 10, is actually titled Vak. Hence, obviously the reference to Sarasvati, but I could not find the word ‘rashtri’ in it.

    Shall clarify it in a day or two myself or consult Dr. K.


  13. I am not able to find out the translator or source of this translation.

    A question arises: Does ‘rashtri’ translate as ‘state’ which is the body politic as organised by civil society or government. Isn’t ‘country’ the more correct translation?


  14. On the line that Vijaya asked about:

    The article text looks to be a translation of the “devyatharvashIrSham” (which vAdyars say when commencing the devI mahAtyam — along with 2 rAtri sUktas, one from the Vedas and one from the Tantras. After the devI mahAtmyam, vadyars say devI sUktas from the tantras and vedas again).

    The line Vijaya is asking about, I copy out below from the devyatharvashIrSham (it’s actually line 7 in my book):

    *ahaM rAShTrI sa~NgamanI* [vasUnAM etc, the shloka continues],
    which just as the line Vijaya quoted from a book in her comment below.


  15. IS,
    On Mariamman in Tamizh Nadu being not anything “unique” to TN, but being the well-known devI durgA:
    over the last few days I’ve been able to confirm the following –

    1. I am practically certain I heard “mArI” and “grAmadevatA” in the durgA sahasranAmam (the durgA sahasranAmam containing the very obvious mantram embedded in it, not the one from the skanda purAnam; I only have the text of the latter, so can’t confirm with print. I may choose to listen to the stotram again to double confirm having heard it.)

    2. I *read* “Maari” as the one of the names in the skanda purANa’s lakShmI sahasranAmam: in the section leading up to the names of durgA, so it goes with durgA.

    3. Close to the end of the phala shruti to the devI mahAtmyam, I’ve confirmed it says MahAmArI, twice:

    mahAkAlyA mahAkAle *mahAmArI* svarUpayA ||

    saiva kAle *mahAmArI* saiva sR^iShTirbhavatyajA |

    I think these 3 instances just cited further underscore how Tamizh Hindus know exactly who Maariamman is and why she is specifically the Vedic Goddess durgA devI known to Hindus (and hence identical to durgA-lakShmI-sarasvatI from devI mahAtmyam).

    There is NO way anyone can pretend that this is some non-Hindu Goddess, let alone for christianism and (neo-)Buddhism to try and inculturate on her.


  16. @IS, yes you are right, the translation is well done. Thanks for the video, quite beautiful, the singing.

    The reason I asked the question about the state is that this hymn resembles the sookta at Book 10, 125 of the Rig Veda. However, in the latter there is no mention of ‘state’, although in the original Sanskrit there might be mention of rashtri.

    I read both the Griffith translation and Dr. S. Kalyanraman who has translated all 10 books, where the Goddess Sarasvati hymns occur.

    Here too I did not find direct mention of the word ‘state’. Neverthless, Dr. K’s book Rashtram(2011), has an opening chapter which makes much of the word ‘rashtri’. The crucial line is ‘aham rashtri sangamanni. . . . ‘

    Yes, I would very much like to know the name of the translator.


  17. Dr. Rajiva, it is interesting that you query this particular line.

    I do not understand the reference myself and debated whether to capitalise ‘state” or not. When checking with another website I noted that they also use the term ‘state’ in their translation.

    I do not know who the translator is but I will try to find out.

    What impressed me is that the translation reads beautifully in English – which is not often the case with translations from Sanskrit.

    Here is a video of the upanishad chanted. I do not know Sanskrit so cannot pick out the sixth verse.


  18. IS a query. In line 6 there is a reference to ‘I am the state’. Do you know if this is a correct translation?


  19. Thank you IS, this says it all!


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