[Advaita-l] Saraswati is Shiva's sister?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Feb 19 00:20:07 CST 2014

On Thu, 13 Feb 2014, V Subrahmanian wrote:

> The questions that arise are:  If brahmA is the 'son' of Vishnu as per
> popular belief, how is Saraswati the source for Lakshmi who is the consort
> of Vishnu? And how is Saraswati the sister of Shiva?  There is a belief
> that Parvati is the sister of Vishnu. There is also a vaishnava belief that
> Shiva is the son of brahmA.  If Saraswati is Shiva's sister, she has to be
> brahmA's daughter too.  There is also a belief that Lakshmi is Shiva's
> sister.  And a brother-sister relationship will make both of them offspring
> of some other entity.  Then, Vishnu and Shiva will have to be sons of
> someone.

Shastra tells all of these stories to explain various concepts of dharma 
not to describe family trees.  As all the devatas are aspects of the one 
Brahman they can be described in contradictory relationships depending on 
the point which is being made.  Brahma is born from a lotus that grows in 
the navel of Vishnu Bhagavan but then again Vishnu is counted amongst the 
12 adityas who are the grandsons of Brahma!  In the first case, Brahma 
represents the manifest trigunatmaka creation which proceeds from an 
unmanifest (avyakta) state and Vishnu is Narayana who is higher than the 
avyakta.  In the second, Brahma is time.  The 12 sons of Aditi 
("infinity") are the presiding deities of the 12 months of the solar year 
by which we reckon time.  So they are two different concepts and you 
cannot mash them together and expect coherence.

On Thu, 13 Feb 2014, Venkatesh Murthy wrote:

> In one ancient story Brahma had a daughter known as Usha. She was very 
> beautiful. Brahma became aroused and went after her. She became a deer and
> ran away. But Brahma became a male deer and chased her and tried to mate.
> But Siva shot an arrow at the male deer. That same Usha became Saraswati
> and Brahma's wife. It may be true Saraswati is Brahma's daughter. Siva is
> Brahma's Manasa Putra.
> Siva is called Pashupati because he can control animal passions.

This is told in Shatapathabrahmana which despite being part of 
shuklayajurveda refers to a sukta in Rgveda (pitA yatsvAM) for reasons to 
be explained.

At the end of a days yajna the remainder of the offering is made to Agni 
Svishtakrt ("the one who makes my offering well-received.")  It is 
mentioned that Agni is but the most auspicious name of Rudra.  How so? 
Prajapati created the Devas who by means of the Yajna ascended to Svarga 
with the exception of Rudra who was solitary and lived amongst the animals 
and was not invited to take part.  Hence he is known as Vastavya ("One 
who is left behind.")  When Rudra came to know this, he became 
angry and hurled His weapon at Heaven.  The Devas asked him to stop and 
placated Him by offering him the remnants of the Yajna as his share.[1]

The Svishtakrt havan is made by the hotr (who is associated with the 
Rgveda and Agni.) not the adhvaryu, the yajurvedic priest.  Why?

The text continues: Prajapati desired to repopulate the Earth now that the 
Devas had ascended and began lusting after his daughter.  According to the 
text, some say she was Divi (sky) and some the dawn (Usha.)[2] In fright, 
the daughter of Prajapati took the form of a deer and ran away and He took 
the same form and followed.  the Devas were aghast at this sin and said to 
Rudra "because He is acting like a beast and commiting incest with our 
sister, His daughter, you, Pashupati, punish him."  Rudra howled in dismay 
(Rudra = "one who cries or howls") and pursued them.  Catching him about 
to engage in the evil deed, Rudra shot Prajapati with an arrow castrating 
him whereupon half of his fiery seed fell to the ground.  The Devas 
desired that it be saved.  First Bhaga tried to gather it but its power 
blinded Him.  This explains why Bhaga is always portrayed as blind.  Then 
Pushan tried but His teeth were knocked out which explains why Pushan is 
not offered an animal sacrifice but charu (= khichdi.)  Finally Brhaspati 
brought it to Savitr who cause it to live (Savitr = "one who impels or 

[1] Compare this with the more well-known Pauranika story of how Shiva 
Bhagavan (Bhagavan literally means one who is worthy of a share.) is 
excluded from the yajna of Daksha Prajapati which gets destroyed until He 
is properly placated.

[2] Although Saraswati is not named here, the equivalency of Usha and 
Saraswati is made elsewhere in the Vedas.]

On Thu, 13 Feb 2014, Venkata sriram P wrote:

> This episode is linked with our jyOtiSya shAstra and a typical
> nakSatra-maNDala is described which is called "shinshumAra chakra".
> In this shinshumAra chakra, the 3 nakshastrAs ie., arudra, mrigashira
> and rohini all three fall in a single line.  The rOhiNi is followed by
> mrigashira which inturn is followed by Arudra.
> This was described as AkhyAyika as prajApati chasing his daughter
> rOhiNi (also called usha).  prajApati assumed the form of mriga.
> shiva got enraged and chased prajApati.  Thus, severed the
> head (shiras) of prajApati who was in mriga form. Thus, the head of
> prajApati was known as "mriga-shiras". Interestingly, the adhipati of
> Arudra nakshatra is shiva only.
> This is the inner essence of brahma chasing his daughter and
> shiva, inturn chasing brahma.  This denote Arudra, mrigasira
> and rohini nakshastras respectively.

I have heard it somewhat differently though I do not recall the source 
now.  Prajapati is the constellation called Orion in English.  The three 
stars that make up "Orions belt" are the arrow that pierced him.  The star 
called Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris) is Rudra and the star Al Debaran 
(Alpha Taurii) or Rohini is the deer.  In the Northern hemisphere atleast, 
Sirius appears to be "chasing" Orion who is chasing Rohini.

On Fri, 14 Feb 2014, Sunil Bhattacharjya wrote:

> What is the important moral you have drawn from the puranic story ?

It can be understood on multiple levels.

The most straightforward is that it explains part of the sequence of 
events in a shrauta yajna.

Agni and Rudra are considered equivalent because they are the boundary 
markers of a yajna.  It begins with the vastu puja which is dedicated to 
Rudra Vastoshpati (or Vastavya as called here.) and it ends with the 
svishtakrt homa dedicated to Agni.  In this context it is significant that 
Prajapati who personifies both time and the yajna chases Dawn i.e. 
oversteps the bounds of the formal closure of the days events.

Prajapati of course oversteps the bounds more literally by attempting 
incest the most primordial of taboos, considered a heinous sin in even the 
most primitive of human cultures.

There is a juxtaposition of social roles.  While the Devas represent 
civilization gathering together in an organized fashion to perform an 
ordered ritual, Rudra is alone and uninvolved like a beast.  On the other 
hand Prajapati the leader of the "civilized" ends up acting like a beast 
and it falls to Rudra to enforce civilized norms.  Although He is 
portrayed as violent,  His is not the malevolence of a tyrant but the 
passion for justice.

Rudra is capable of "spoiling" the yajna by attacking the Devas 
or castrating Prajapati or beheading Daksha.  At first He is  not given a 
share.  Yet paradoxically He is the only one who can make it complete.  In 
Vedanta too we have this paradox of the sannyasi who by rejecting the 
apparent instruction of the Vedas becomes the one who can achieve moksha 
which is the culmination of its teachings.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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