USHAS AKA THE DAWN
This goddess, representative of the Dawn, is a favourite object of
celebration with the Vedic poets, and "the hymns addressed to her are
among the most beautiful—if not the most beautiful—in the entire
collection." * She is described as the daughter of the Sky, has Night
for her sister, and is related to Varuna. She is at times spoken of as
the wife of the Sun; at other times Agni is given as her lover; the
Asvins are her friends. Indra is at one time regarded as her creator; at
another time he assumes a hostile position, and even crushed her
chariot with his thunderbolt.
Ushas is said † to travel in a shining chariot drawn by ruddy horses or
cows. Like a beautiful maiden dressed by her mother, a dancing girl
covered with jewels, a gaily-attired wife appearing before her husband,
or a beautiful girl corning from her bath, she, smiling and confiding in
the irresistible power of her attractions, unfolds her bosom to the
gaze of the beholders. She dispels the darkness, disclosing the
treasures it concealed. She illuminates the world, revealing its most
distant extremities. She is the life and health of all things, causing
the birds to fly from their nests, and, like a young housewife, awaking
all her creatures, sends them forth to the pursuit of their varied
occupations. She does good service to the gods, by causing the
worshippers to awake, and the sacrificial fires to be lighted. She is
asked to arouse only the devout and liberal, while she allows the
niggardly to sleep on. She is young, being born every day; and yet she
is old, being immortal, wearing out the lives of successive generations,
which disappear one after another, whilst she continues undying. The
souls of the departed are said to go to her and to the sun.
In the following lines * will be found the main teaching of the Vedas respecting this goddess:—
"Hail, ruddy Ushas, golden goddess, borne
Upon thy shining car, thou comest like
A lovely maiden by her mother decked,
Disclosing coyly all thy hidden grace
To our admiring eyes; or like a wife
Unveiling to her lord, with conscious pride,
Beauties which, as he gazes lovingly,
Seem fresher, fairer, each succeeding morn.
Through years and years thou hast lived on, and yet
Thou’rt ever young. Thou art the breath and life
Of all that breathes and lives, awaking day by day
Myriads of prostrate sleepers, as from death,
Causing the birds to flutter in their nests,
And rousing men to ply with busy feet
Their daily duties and appointed tasks,
Toiling for wealth, or pleasure, or renown."
In the following verses by Dr. Muir † we have a still more vivid picture of this goddess as represented in the Vedic hymns:—
"Hail, Ushas, daughter of the sky,
Who, borne upon thy shining car
By ruddy steeds from realms afar,
And ever lightening drawest nigh—
"Thou sweetly smilest, goddess fair,
Disclosing all thy youthful grace,
Thy bosom bright, thy radiant face,
And lustre of thy golden hair—
"She shines a fond and winning bride,
Who robes her form in brilliant guise,
And to her lord's admiring eyes
Displays her charms with conscious pride—
"Or virgin by her mother decked,
Who, glorying in her beauty, shows
In every glance her power she knows
All eyes to fix, all hearts subject—
"Or actress, who by skill in song
And dance, and graceful gestures light,
And many-coloured vestures bright,
Enchants the eager, gazing throng—
"Or maid, who, wont her limbs to lave
In some cold stream among the woods,
Where never vulgar eye intrudes,
Emerges fairer from the wave—
"But closely by the amorous Sun
Pursued and vanquished in the race,
Thou soon art locked in his embrace,
And with him blendest into one.
"Fair Ushas, though through years untold
Thou hast lived on, yet thou art born
Anew on each succeeding morn,
And so thou art both young and old.
"As in thy fated ceaseless course
Thou risest on us day by day,
Thou wearest all our lives away
With silent, ever-wasting force.
"Their round our generations run:
The old depart, and in their place
Springs ever up a younger race,
Whilst thou, immortal, lookest on.
"All those who watched for thee of old
Are gone, and now ’tis we who gaze
On thy approach; in future days
Shall other men thy beams behold.
"But ’tis not thoughts so grave and sad
Alone that thou dost with thee bring,
A shadow o’er our hearts to fling
Thy beams returning make us glad.
"Thy sister, sad and sombre Night,
With stars that in the blue expanse,
Like sleepless eyes, mysterious glance,
At thy approach is quenched in light;
"And earthly forms, till now concealed
Behind her veil of dusky hue,
Once more come sharply out to view,
By thine illuming glow revealed.
"Thou art the life of all that lives,
The breath of all that breathes; the sight
Of thee makes every countenance bright,
New strength to every spirit gives.
"When thou dost pierce the murky gloom,
Birds flutter forth front every brake,
All sleepers as from death awake,
And men their myriad tasks resume.
"Some, prosperous, wake in listless mood,
And others every nerve to strain
The goal of power or wealth to gain,
Or what they deem the highest good.
"But some to holier thoughts aspire,
In hymns the race celestial praise,
And light, on human Hearths to blaze,
The heaven-born sacrificial fire.
"And not alone do bard and priest
Awake—the gods thy power confess
By starting into consciousness
When thy first rays suffuse the east;
"And hasting downward from the sky,
They visit men devout and good,
Consume their consecrated food,
And all their longings satisfy.
"Bright goddess, let thy genial rays
To us bring store of envied wealth
In kine and steeds, and sons, with health,
And joy of heart, and length of days."