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Rig Ved Book 4 Hymn 18 is really interesting. It begins with the following declaration (quoting from the Griffith translation):

  1. THIS is the ancient and accepted pathway by which all Gods have come into existence. Hereby could one be born though waxen mighty. Let him not, otherwise, destroy his Mother.

  2. Not this way go I forth: hard is the passage. Forth from the side obliquely will I issue. Much that is yet undone must I accomplish; one must I combat and the other question.

This verse has been interpreted to imply that Indra was not born through the normal delivery but from the side of his mother. Further verses state:

  1. He bent his eye upon the dying Mother: My word I now withdraw. That way I follow. In Tvaṣṭar's dwelling India drank the Soma, a hundredworth of juice pressed from the mortar.

  2. What strange act shall he do, he whom his Mother bore for a thousand months and many autumns? No peer hath he among those born already, nor among those who shall be born hereafter.

Does this imply that his mother died in child-birth? If so which mother are we talking about - Aditi or Prithvi? (Check this question for Indra's different sets of parents)

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The story is full of twist and turns. I will give the information i know. It is very interesting.

To know more about the story, you should know the god Tvastar. Tvastar is referred as the god who created sky and the earth, created different creatures. He created different objects like the soma cup that was used to drink soma (a vedic ritual drink), created vajra (a weapon) for Indra. He also created an axe for Brihaspati. In the Rig Veda, he is shown as an artist who creates a lot of different and unique things and that's why he is also known as the heavenly builder.

But something that was not created by Tvastar is water. Water was already present. I know things have started becoming confusing. This is what i know.

Sky and the earth were created by Tvastr to be his house. Later sky and earth became parent of lord Indra. Indra told his mother about the way he wants to get borned but the mother earth opposes his request. This is where the hymn 18 comes into play.

THIS is the ancient and accepted pathway by which all Gods have come into existence. Hereby could one be born though waxen mighty. Let him not, otherwise, destroy his Mother.

Mother earth for some reason wanted to abandon Indra. So, mother earth left Indra but Indra kept following her. While following his mother, Indra reached the place of Tvastar.

Tvastar is the guardian of soma. Now, Indra had to drink soma to become powerful. Some say that Indra stole soma from Tvastar. After drinking soma, Lord Indra became powerful and as a result it was getting hard for mother Earth to hold him.

She asks Kusaava ( a river) to take him in her womb. Later the water of Kusava helped Indra to grow. Lord Indra kept on growing. As, I already said Indra wanted to be delivered in an unusual way. He wanted to come from side and he was continuously growing. You can look for Kusava in the Rig veda.

This made difficult for Kusava to hold him. This is where the other lines come in

He bent his eye upon the dying Mother: My word I now withdraw. That way I follow. In Tvaṣṭar's dwelling India drank the Soma, a hundredworth of juice pressed from the mortar.

Kusava could not hold Indra and as a result Kusava dies.

This story is really interesting. I am not 100% clear about one thing and that is if Indra took soma before getting in the womb of kusava or after.

Anyway, as I said the story is full of twists. As, I said Tvastar was the creator of lot of thing,

If we look at Tvastar then it's him who wanted to dethrone Indra. To dethrone Indra he created Trisiras (Tvastar three headed son).

Tvastar in revenge for his son created Vritra. Vritra was the one who holded all the water and Indra had to kill Vritra to release water.

  • thanks for the details. What is still not clear to me is how can Prithvi abandon ndra without delivering him? The only way Indra could have been passed to Kusava river would be after coming out of his mother's womb. The part about his dying mother may refer to Kusava as you said but I doubt since that name comes much later in the verse. Also the first question still stands - did Indra come out from the side of mother Earth? – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal Jul 29 '17 at 17:49
  • Earth abondoned is in the sense that earth did not took care of Indra. She asked Kusava to take care of him. Now, the question is how can earth give indra to kusuva without tearing herself and the answer is i don't know but i can help you with an illustration. Now, What is Earth. It's a huge ball right. What does its surface contain? It contains water, air , earth, light and other things. Now, where do you get a fish. You get it in water. Where is the water? It's in earth. Now, earth don't have to tear herself. Earth can contain water but water cannot contain earth. – lambad Jul 29 '17 at 18:25
  • Just think, does Earth have to tear herself to touch water. Water is surrounding Earth. She does not have to tear herself. If your body is earth and you know your body is made of 70% water.You eat a chocalate. The chocalate will meet liquid in your body. You don't have to tear yourself. I hope it makes sense. – lambad Jul 29 '17 at 18:27
  • Good analogy and even though quite creative still it seems like an imaginative interpretation rather than deciphering of the verse. Earth and Water are very clearly two different domains in Hindu scriptures and one does not contain the other. The answer still is elusive. BTW since you are quite intense about Tvastar you should try your hand on my question on him too. – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal Jul 29 '17 at 19:56

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