Who are the three mothers, Tryambaka, of Agni/Rudra, and where are they mentioned in the Vedas?


1 Answer 1


enter image description hereRig Veda itself in its 5th mandala uses the term त्रिमाता - trimātā́ to denote three mothers, so there is no need for Triambakam to become 3 mothers in any sense. Yet, some Western scholars associated the Triambakam with 3 mothers for a lack of better vocabulary. Finally, 3 mothers of Agni/Rudra is a very unusual question as none of the Native Acharyas have given an explanation as such. However, if one does have such a reference, we urge you to share it with us in the comments so an exchange of valuable information can take a page. Now for those who are interested to deep dive into vocabulary and Sandhi (the junction of Sanskrit building blocks) here is some analysis and a conclusion from the literate itself:

Vocabulary: Ambā/Amba means mother. Especially the southern regions influenced with such literature its Amma, so the 'म्ब' became just 'म्'. The short form of Amma is just “Mā” the preceding ‘ā’ became silent in regular usage, but mātā denotes respect. Hence the title Uma = ‘U’ + ‘Ma’ or the title Sambha = 'Sa' + 'Ambā' (meaning along with Ambā). Hope we are clear till now. Rig Ved itself in its 5th mandala uses the term त्रिमाता - trimātā́ to denote three mothers so there is no need for Triambakam to become 3 mothers or 3 sisters. Further South of India Amma became Amman/Amme (Hence the song “Amme Narayani”). Ambā is a respected term given to women irrespective of age. Ambi  is a term used with affection towards a mother or daughter, since Uma is a princess she was called with a derivative Ambika (Ambi + Ka). Hence, Ambaya/Ambada and Ambala/Ambali are all derivatives given to the term mother based on the context. Since the prevalence of Devi Uma is high in Kashi the King of Kashi named his 3 daughters: Amba, Ambika, Ambalika. Ambi+ka is given to sister, and Amba+lika is given to mother. Ambā is not equal to Ambakam. Two separate words. Hence, ambakam denotes eyes and has no relevance to the mother. One is welcome to open Sanskrit Lexicon and see of themselves. I am attaching an image and one can see no synonyms used other than eye. It's only when you convert the sandhi as Amba+ka+am or Amba+kam which many try to interpret in relation to mother, but contextually there is no reason for such a sandhi (decoupling) in the context of this hymn especially when there is a term trimātā́ used in Rig Veda. Hence Vedic Ghana Patana chant says "त्रि अम्बकं इति त्रयम्बकं" (reference from Tezz ji's post). Ambu can also denote water in a few cases.

Having explored the vocabulary with various derivations and Ghana Patana, is there any explicit reference that can conclude the title trayambakam and its origin? Well, Rśi Vyāsa explains the significance of 3 and its association to Rudra in Mahabratam Drona Parva 203, the following should clarify any remnant questions:

And since Maheswara by means of his two eyes closed (in meditation), created through sheer force of will the third eye on his forehead, he is for that reason called the trayambakam...
And since three goddesses adore and have recourse to that Lord of the universe, viz., Firmament, Water and Earth, he is for that reason called Tryamvaka.
The Ordainer of the three worlds (Triloka), he is the sole refuge of the three worlds....
 O son of Kunti, seek the protection of that boon-giving Lord of the universe, the lord of Uma, that God of three eyes (trayambaka), that destroyer of Daksha's sacrifice....
When, however, the three cities came together in the firmament, the lord Mahadeva. pierced them with that terrible shaft of his, consisting of three knots. (Tripurantaka/Tripurari)....
And since the solar and the lunar rays of light that appear in the world are spoken of as the hair on the Three-eyed one, he is for that reason called Vyomakesa

Mahabratam Drona Parva 202-203

Image: Sanskrit Lexicon: Institute of Indology & Tamil Studies, Cologne University, Germany 12/1/2008

Now, coming to the 2nd part of question where Agni and Rudra are Tryambakam. Both Agni and Rudra take the mantel of Tryambakam.

trikāgnikālāya meaning the 3 fires which blaze at all times, are garhapatya, ahavaniya, and agnihotra. Time is always burning or is exhaustive, meaning it doesn't stop, and trik+āgni+kālāya also depicts the three dimensions of time, which are the memory of the past, the present moment at hand, and the upcoming imaginative future. One might think of past and future as linear events and so are non-existential, but we will address this soon. The second title is kālāgnirudrāya (कालाग्निरुद्र) meaning fire that devours time, why? Because Rudra itself is TIME, hence the title Kālāya Namaha"कालाय नमः" TA10.18 meaning, I bow to you oh time. This finally landed in Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad wherein it says "अन्त:काले सञ्चुकोच"SU3.2 meaning He dissolves all beings into Him at end of time. Similarly, the association of Agni with time is clear in Muṇḍakopaniṣad with the title Kāli. Source: 1. Vedic Rudra-Agni 2. Appearance of Rudra

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .