I found the passage on Wikipedia page of Samkhya(sankhya) Philosophy.

Seven to the one-wheeled chariot yoke the Courser; bearing seven names the single Courser draws it. Three-naved the wheel is, sound and undecaying, whereon are resting all these worlds of being. The seven [priests] who on the seven-wheeled car are mounted have horses, seven in tale, who draw them onward. Seven Sisters utter songs of praise together, in whom the names of the seven Cows are treasured. Who hath beheld him as he [Sun/Agni] sprang to being, seen how the boneless One [spirit] supports the bony [body]? Where is the blood of earth, the life, the spirit? Who will approach the one who knows, to ask this?
----Rigveda 1.164.2 - 1.164.4

From my understanding this is leaning towards the Advaitic philosophy, but i am not able to understand all the symbols here, like bearing seven names points to the Sapta Rishis or any thing else.

Any help will be appreciated.

  • 1
    Going by pure padapaatha, please find my interpretation. rupabhaty.home.blog/2019/07/22/samvatsara
    – R. Bhaty
    Jul 23, 2019 at 14:17
  • 7 is the number of days in a week and also 7 planets in horoscope which are actually 1 Sun(consciousness) + 1 Moon(mind) + 5 planets/senses, hence you have 5 fingers in each hand, the mover of the hand is feminine Moon/Mind and the seer of the action i.e. Self is 7th the masculine Sun/Brahman/soul/consciousness. Hence, its written in Bible, God created world in 6 days i.e. 1 mind and 5 senses. Self is God. 6 is just a permutation of 3 guna Prakriti i.e. Satva, Rajas and Tamas.
    – user16530
    Jul 23, 2019 at 14:27

3 Answers 3


Rig-Veda 1.64 is riddle Hymn. Also called as "asya vamsaya" hymn . The vedic rishi Dirghatamas is the seer of the hymn and is considered by scholars much difficult to interpret as it presents series of riddles before readers.

H.H. wilson whose translation is based on Sayanacharya Bhashya is supplying us the following explanation about the sukta and mantra 2-4. Mostly the commentary is self explanatory.

Here is Sayana's general view about sukta.

According to Sayana , however , the general purport of this sukta is the inculcation of the doctrines of the "Vedanta" or the spiritual unity of Brahma and the universe : some passages occur that bear him out in this view , but the text , upon the whole ,although often mystical and obscure ,evidently proposes the glorification of "Aditya" , or the sun , especially as identifiable with all creation.

Now let's see the translation of H.H, Wilson and commentary by sayana of each mantra.

सप्त युञ्जन्ति रथमेकचक्रमेको अश्वो वहति सप्तनामा |
त्रिनाभि चक्रमजरमनर्वं यत्रेमा विश्वा भुवनाधि तस्थुः || Rig-Veda 164.2 ||

sapta yuñjanti rathamekacakrameko aśvo vahati saptanāmā |
trinābhi cakramajaramanarvaṃ yatremā viśvā bhuvanādhitasthuḥ ||

Translation - They yoke the seven (horses) to the one wheeled car : one horse , named seven , bears it along ; the three -axled wheel is undecaying , never loosened , and in it all these regions of the universe abide.

Sayana interpretation -

रथमेकचक्र - "One wheeled car" - Either the orb of the sun , or time , or a year : the seven horses may be the seven solar rays , or the six seasons , with their aggregation and year.; or the six double months , and inter-calary month ; or the seven days of the week : the wheels of the car , as typical of time , past , present , and future , should be three , but they are identical in nature , and are therfore said to be but one.

चक्रमेको अश्वो वहति सप्तनामा - "to the one wheeled car : one horse , named seven " - Eko aswo saptamaha may mean the sun , or Aditya either as the absorber of seven flavors , or as praised by the seven Rishis ; or it may be a sort of pun , sapta meaning a horse as well as seven.

त्रिनाभि -trinābhi - The day with three sandhya's ; the year with three seasons , hot , wet and cold.

विश्वा भुवनाधितस्थुः viśvā bhuvanādhitasthuḥ - All things are dependant on time ; which itself is imperishable , as the smiriti ; anadinidhanah kalah , time is without beginning.

इमं रथमधि ये सप्त तस्थुः सप्तचक्रं सप्त वहन्त्यश्वाः |
सप्त स्वसारो अभि सं नवन्ते यत्र गवां निहिता सप्त नाम || Rig-Veda 164.3 ||

imaṃ rathamadhi ye sapta tasthuḥ saptacakraṃ sapta vahantyaśvāḥ |
sapta svasāro abhi saṃ navante yatra ghavāṃ nihitā sapta nāma ||

Translation - :The seven who preside over this seven-wheeled chariot (are) the seven horses who draw it ; seven sisters ride in it together , and in it are deposited the seven forms of utterance.

Sayana's interpretation -

सप्त - sapta - Either the solar rays , or if the year be typified , the seven portion of it ; as the ayana or solstice , season , month , fortnight ,day , night hour. Sayana considers the seven wheels as well as the seven horse to be the solar rays.

Seven sisters - : The commentator repeats the interpretation either he rayas of the sun , or the six seasons and the aggregate year , or the six double and one intercalary month.

गवां ghavāṃ - : seven forms of utterance - The seven notes of music as employed in chanting the praises of the sun ; or if " gavam" be used in sense of water ,the seven forms may be seven divine rivers.

को ददर्श प्रथमं जायमानमस्थन्वन्तं यदनस्था बिभर्ति |
भूम्या असुरस्रुगात्मा क्व स्विक्तो विद्वांसमुप गात्प्रष्टुमेतत || Rig-Veda 164.4||

ko dadarśa prathamaṃ jāyamānamasthanvantaṃ yadanasthā bibharti | bhūmyā asurasṛghātmā kva svit ko vidvāṃsamupa ghāt praṣṭumetat ||

Translation - Who has seen the primeval (being) at the time of his being born ; what is that endowed with substance which the unsubstantial sustains ; from earth are the breath and blood , but where is the soul; who may repair to the sage to ask this.

Sayana's interpretation -

Asthanwantam yad anastha vibhartti - lit, that which having bone , the boneless sustains ; the latter , according to sayana is the prakriti of tha sankhyas , or the maya of the vendantis ,formless matter , or spiritual illusion , from which the material and visible world proceeds.

The mantras 2-4 are dedicated to aditya or the sun . The sun is also symbol of supreme light or supreme sun god. The sun or supreme light has seven children , the visible sun , Moon and five planets.

Here is Rig-Veda Subodha Bashya in hindi by Shripad Damodar Satwalekar translated by Narinder Sharma.

So if we look above we can find the complexity of the sukta. A single word used in same mantra multiple times , can have multiple meanings.i.e. The use of the number seven recurs throughout the hymn. As you have enquired about the word Seven or Sapta. The word can be interpreted variousely throughout the hymn .Like The seven notes of music ,seven days of the week , seven solar rays , seven sisters , seven rivers , seven rishi's etc. But Who the seven is not precisely known.

Conclusion - As you have stated , according to sayana this hymn is resembling the teaching of upanishads i.e. vedanta that Brahman and the universe is same. According to sayana the Prakriti of Samkhya or Maya of vedantis (advaita) can be traced in mantra 4 ,(that which having bone , the boneless sustains ) . The seven word can be visualised as seven rays residing in sun are seven horses ,which took the sun everywhere. The seven name are the seven swaras . seven sisters are the seven Chandas (छन्द) with which vedas praise the sun god.


The following is the extract from Vedic Yoga:The Path of the Rishi, by Vedacharya David Frawley.

Vedic worship or Yajna is compared to a chariot (ratha) or to a wheel (chakra). The Devas have their special chariots with magical powers, and their special wheels. These chariots symbolize the subtle body and its chakra system. Yoga can be defined as yoking our inner chariot, which is the mind, the senses, and the subtle body.

The Rishi's chariot reflects the subtle body with its seven chakras or energy centres that are interlinked in various ways. It is hardly an actual chariot that is meant, and the mystical implications are hard to deny. A wheel or chakra in which all the worlds exist is an inner energy center of consciousness. Dirghatamas describes the Vedic horse in a similar cosmic symbolism. The horse is a symbol of prana or the soul. The vedic concern is not simply with actual horses.


It is leaning towards Advaitic philosophy and the seven are the sapta rishis. In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.2.3, we see it said,

There is a bowl with its rim below and its base above. In it is placed the glory which possesses all forms. On its edge sit the seven rishis...The "bowl with its rim below and its base above" is the head, for it is a bowl with its rim below and its base above. "In it is placed the glory which possesses all forms": the pranas are the glory which possesses all forms. "On its edge sit the seven rishis": the pranas are the rishis.

Shankara explains in his commentary that,

The ear and so on and the prana distributed among them in seven forms represent the glory which possesses all forms because they are the cause of the knowledge of sound (and the other sense-objects).

So, the seven are the seven flows of prana in the sense-organs in the head: two eyes, ears, nostrils and tongue. In reference to Rig Veda 1.164.2, they are described as horses ("Courser"). As we see in Katha Upanishad 3.4, it is explained,

The horses (haya) are the sense-organs

Haya means both horse and seven. In Rig Veda 1.164.2, the word translated as Courser, ashva, also means horse and seven. They are the seven rays of the Sun - just as the rays have their source in the Sun, the flows of prana have their source in the Self. The seven sisters and seven cows are synonyms.

Elsewhere in Rig Veda, they are described as seven rivers - just as all rivers flow back into the sea, all prana has its source in the Self. It is because of imagery like this that the Sun and the sea are used to symbolise the Self.

This explains why Rig Veda 1.164 is regarded as worship of the Sun,

Who hath beheld him as he [Sun/Agni] sprang to being, seen how the boneless One [spirit] supports the bony [body]?

The Self supports the body, which is the chariot. In Katha Upanishad 3.3 it is stated,

the body is the chariot

When regarding the seven as rivers, the imagery is clarified in Mundaka Upanishad,

3.2.8. Just as flowing rivers go down into the sea, leaving name and form behind, the one who knows, freed from name and form, reaches the highest Supreme Self.

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