As you can see in the Rig Veda Anukramani I provided in this answer, verses 4-6 of Rig Veda Book 1 Hymn 155 are addressed to Vishnu. Here they are:

  1. We laud this manly power of him the Mighty One, preserver, inoffensive, bounteous and benign; His who strode, widely pacing, with three steppings forth over the realms of earth for freedom and for life.

  2. A mortal man, when he beholds two steps of him who looks upon the light, is restless with amaze. But his third step doth no one venture to approach, no, nor the feathered birds of air who fly with wings.

  3. He, like a rounded wheel, hath in swift motion set his ninety racing steeds together with the four. Developed, vast in form, with those who sing forth praise, a youth, no more a child, he cometh to our call.

The three steps seem like a clear reference to Vishnu's incarnation as Vamana the dwarf, but my question is, what is this reference to Vishnu's "ninety racing steeds together with the four"? What is the story of these 90 horses of Vishnu, and what does "the four" denote? Four additional horses?

Now Western Indologists, for instance in this book, have speculated that the 90 horses really denote the fact that there are 90 days in a season, and that the four denotes the fact that there four seasons in year. But are there any scriptures that describe Vishnu literally driving a chariot pulled by 90 horses?

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    Okay how will 90 horses drive a single chariot? The thing about four seasons is wrong because (in India at least) there are six seasons each consisting of 60 days. So you can perhaps edit that part of the question.
    – Surya
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 12:45
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    Well, how do you imagine things when Andal envisions Vishnu riding a chariot pulled by a thousand elephants? I envision either a gigantic Vishnu in a gigantic chariot pulled by a single row of a thousand elephants. Or else I envision a seven-foot tall human-sized Vishnu (as we see in Tirupati) pulled in a chariot by rows and rows of elephants, akin to an Alaskan dog sled team (if you've ever watched Balto). So I think one of those two things is what's going on here as well. Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 15:37
  • Please look at this indianscriptures.com/scriptures/vedas/rig-veda/mandala-i/…. I have found this version in some other translation of Rig veda. If you want, then I can post answer based on this. Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 9:33

2 Answers 2


Actually it was Griffith who speculated it be 90 steeds if you check the verse in Sanskrit it never said anywhere of 90 horses instead it said about 4 times and 90 names!

चतुर्भिः साकं नवतिं च नामभिश्चक्रं न वर्त्तं वयतीन्रवीविपत | बर्हच्छरीरो विमिमान रक्वभिर्युवाकुमारः परत्येत्याहवम ||

caturbhiḥ sākaṃ navatiṃ ca nāmabhiścakraṃ na vṛttaṃ vyatīnravīvipat | bṛhaccharīro vimimāna ṛkvabhiryuvākumāraḥ pratyetyāhavam ||


"Idam Vishnurvi Chakrame tredha nidadhipadam Samurhamasya panesure".

According to this shloka of the Rig-Veda, Vishnu accepts the direct and the indirect world along with nature and atoms and increases its body, and then, he measures with his steps all the three forms of the world, the earth , the space and the atomic world between the two. In other words, all the three worlds are inherent in Vishnu.

If we see that the word 'Vishnu' comes from 'Vish' root, then it means something that is excessively active, dynamic. The chief characteristic of Vishnu is his dynamism. Vishnu, in the form of a chakra(wheel), rotates 90 horses (i.e days) with four names, i.e. four seasons, which hint 365 days of a year.

And I guess you are right it is the days and seasons.

So far I have got this much only from this book.

And here in Vishnu Purana I have read something about the horses that each planets ride, for eg.

The chariot of the son of Chandra, Budha or Mercury, is composed of the elementary substances air and fire, and is drawn by eight bay horses of the speed of the wind

But the total makes only to 60 summing up all the planets horses.

  • This doesn't answer my question at all. I already mentioned in my question that some people have speculated that the 90 and the 4 refer to days in a season and seasons in a year. So it doesn't help me to quote from another book that engages in the same speculation. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 4:58
  • The whole point of my question was to find out whether there are any references in Hindu scripture to Vishnu literally having 90 horses, rather than the 90 horses just having a symbolic meaning. Also, you said "And I guess you are right it is the days and seasons." That's not what I believe, I'm just stating the speculation of Western Indologists. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 5:00
  • @KeshavSrinivasan I am sorry my friend but, I don't think there is any other scriptures which states such thing as its only mentioned in Rig veda and its translations. I just helped you a bit, even though its not what you wanted you didn't have to down vote it.
    – Questioner
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 5:23
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    Well then, I'd still like some kind of proof that the 90 days in a season thing is what the Rig Veda verse actually means, rather than just baseless speculation in various modern books. I already know about that speculation. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 5:33
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    Sorry, I hope you don't take the downvote personally. I definitely appreciate you taking the effort to try to find an answer to my question, but voting is just a way to encourage people to improve the quality of their posts. If you're able to edit your answers with solid evidence that that's the actual meaning of the line, I'd be happy to change my downvote to an upvote. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 5:37

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