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I often hear critics use this verse to claim that the Vedas say the earth is supported by pillars. Can someone explain the real meaning of this?

HYMN CLX. Heaven and Earth.

  1. Among the skillful Gods most skilled is he, who made the two world-halves which bring prosperity to all; Who with great wisdom measured both the regions out, and established them with pillars that shall never decay.

  2. Extolled in song, O Heaven and Earth, bestow on us, ye mighty Pair, great glory and high lordly sway, Whereby we may extend ourselves ever over the folk; and send us strength that shall deserve the praise of men.

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In Jamison and Brereton's version (page 339) , the verse is translated as follows:

1.160 (4)

This one here, the best artisan of the artisans of the gods, who begat the two world-halves beneficial to all, who measured out the two airy realms with a display of his good resolve, with unaging props—he has been universally praised.

So you can seen here that the translation suggests the verse is used to praise a deity who has a ability to measure greatness of heaven and earth with great accuracy!

  • @user12262: The translation mentions only "good resolve" not "great accuracy". – Periannan Chandrasekaran Sep 28 '18 at 4:43
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The real meaning of the hymn RV1.160 (4) is like this- ' Those gods who , by removing the darkness (devanam pasa mapas tamo), gave birth to twin spheres/worlds ( rodasi/ dhyava- prithvi , the inherent meaning social world and life sustaining earth) became inhabitable ( vish va sama bhuva); they sustained as their kingdom (rajasi) with good deeds and producing wealth (su kratu yaya jare bhih/r) gave stability like with pillars (skambh ne bhih/r sama nriche) But don"t blame the critics, even the ardent supporters also do not understand the hymns usually. The key point is the words used in RigVeda should not be understood with the meaning we bestow upon them at present e.g. vishva mentioned above . They used this word meaning the inhabited world/ surrounding as the root here is 'vis' not merely as world or universe as we mean now.

  • Good. Personally I found the critics reasoning to be grotesque absurdity, because they were cherry picking verses to try to highlight "errors in the vedas". – user12142 Oct 23 '17 at 16:22
  • You are arbitrarily and incorrectly, as gibberish, splitting the original verse as "devanam pasa mapas tamo" and giving the meaning "Those gods who , by removing the darkness ". "devā́nām" is a plural genitive meaning "among gods" and not "Those gods". And you left out "ayam" which means "this one" singular masculine. And the other word "mapas" is nonexistent. "tamo" is the masculine singular superlative ending meaning "-est". This is distortion of sacred vedic verses to suit modern attitudes, – Periannan Chandrasekaran Sep 28 '18 at 5:06
  • @PeriannanChandrasekaran Rig Vedic verses are in a formative phase of language and it could not be explained by later fixed grammar. If we go by your provided meaning what will be the translation of " mahat devanam asuratva ekam"(RV.3.55)? Rig Veda is sacred and historical as well. – B.N. Bhaskar Oct 12 '18 at 3:56
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The verse clearly mentions "skámbhanebhiḥ" meaning "with supports or pillars". RV 6.047.05 also refers to the same notion of supporting the heaven (dyā́m) by a pillar (skambhanena) by another earlier poet (the 6th mandala is among the oldest layers of the Rig Veda):

ayám mahā́n mahatā́ skámbhanenód dyā́m astabhnād vṛṣabhó marútvān

And the translation by Jamison and Brereton only mentions "good resolve" not "great accuracy".

The word "sukratūyā" simply means "intelligence, wisdom, skill" and its instrumental case "sukratūyáyā" means "with great skill". So Rg Veda still states that the heaven and earth are supported by pillars.

  • 'So Rg Veda still states that the heaven and earth are supported by pillars' - so are 'pillars' meant to be taken literally or figuratively here? – sv. Sep 28 '18 at 22:16

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