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What is the etymology (nirukta or nispatti) of Visha in Rig Veda? What is the Mukhya Artha and what are the Amukhya arthas during in Vedic Sanskrit?


Some people were claiming that Rig Veda 10.136.7 says Vayu churned poison for Rudra. Because the word Visha is there. But Sayanacharya interprets this as water.

वायुरस्मा उपामन्थत्पिनष्टि स्मा कुनन्नमा । केशी विषस्य पात्रेण यद्रुद्रेणापिबत्सह ॥

vāyur asmā upāmanthat pinaṣṭi smā kunannamā | keśī viṣasya pātreṇa yad rudreṇāpibat saha ||

English translation: “Vāyu churned for him, the inflexible (thunder) ground it when the radiant (Sun), along with Rudra,drank the water with his cup.”

Commentary by Sāyaṇa: Ṛgveda-bhāṣya With his cup: the cup is the sun's rays, which absorb the moisture of the earth; theagitation of the wind sends this moisture down again as rain; kunan namā = that which often guides but cannotbe guided, i.e., the mādhyamikā vāk;

Rudra = the lightning, vaidyutāgni

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But Rig Veda 1.191.16 seems to mean the word Visha as poison.

कुषुम्भकस्तदब्रवीद्गिरेः प्रवर्तमानकः । वृश्चिकस्यारसं विषमरसं वृश्चिक ते विषम् ॥

kuṣumbhakas tad abravīd gireḥ
pravartamānakaḥ | vṛścikasyārasaṃ viṣam arasaṃ vṛścika te viṣam ||

English translation: “Hastening forth at the command (of Agastya), thus spoke the mongoose: the venom of the scorpion is innocuous; scorpion, your venom is innocuous.”

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2 Answers 2

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Harihi Om.

The story of Shri Vaayu consuming the halaahala poison is specific to Vaishnavism and therefore, is accepted only by Sri and Maadhva Vaishnavas. The interpretations of the Keshi Sukta too, will vary. As far as the Vaishnava interpretation is concerned, the word 'visha' refers to poison, since an Upa-Braahmana exists in the Kumbakonam edition of the Mahaabhaarata, which was also quoted by Shripaada Madhvacharya.

अमृतोत्पादने पुनर्भक्षणतां वायुसमीकृतस्य विषस्योपगतश्च तद्भक्षणमिति तन्निमित्तमेव चन्द्रकला ब्रह्मणा निहिता । आङ्गिरसबृहस्पतेरुपस्पृशतो न प्रसादं गतवत्यः किलापः । अथ बृहस्पतिरद्भ्यश्चुक्रोध यस्मान्ममोपस्पृशतः कलुपीभूता नच प्रसादमुपगतास्ततस्मादद्यप्रभृति झषमकरमत्स्यकच्छपजन्तुमण्डूकसंकीर्णाः कलुषीभवतेति । तदाप्रभृत्यापो यादोभिः संकीर्णाः कलुषीभवतेति । तदाप्रभृत्यापो यादोभिः संकीर्णाः संवृत्ताः ॥ 12-351-27 ॥

Desiring to obtain amrta, on the day of the crescent moon, Shri Vaayu, the consumer of the poison, churned and reduced the intensity of the poison, as per the directions of Brahmaa. Then, Shri Brhaspati touched the water to enable the appearance of amrta, he was not pleased (as it didn’t appear). Angrily, he cursed: “Even after me touching water, it is still contaminated. Thus, the water shall become contaminated with sea animals, thus, the water shall become contaminated with sea animals.”

-Mahaabhaarata (Kumbhakonam edition), Shaanti Parva, Adhyaaya 351, Shloka 27

Moreover, the interpretation of 'visha' as "water" has some basis, since water is one of its synonyms. However, this isn't considered to suit the context. Moreover, Shri Saayanacharya's views are not acceptable to most Vedaantins, since his explanations are based on deeper meanings and symbolism.

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    Thank you for the answer, but this question is regarding the meaning of Visha in Rig Veda. This is more of a grammatical question. I'm asking what is the nirukta and nispatti of the word Visha. So what's it Yougika Mukhyartha amd what's its Roodi Mukhyartha. And which one is used here. So it's more of a technical grammatical question.
    – user28152
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 9:08
  • @rogerchase Harihi Om. While I'm not sure about what the Veda Nirukta says, both "water" and "poison" are synonyms for the word 'visha', as per most Sanskrit dictionaries and the grammatical style of the Vedas. That's the reason Shri Saayana considered the meaning "water". Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 9:20
  • Yes but Visha can be interpreted as Yaha Vishati iti Vishaha, meaning that one which flows and fills is Visha that is water. But how is Visha interpreted as poison?
    – user28152
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 9:25
  • @RogerChase That’s because ‘poison’ is the primary meaning of ‘visha’, as per any Sanskrit dictionary. Also, as you quoted a mantra from the Rgveda mentioning scorpions as being harmless to the mongoose. Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 17:57
  • When you use the word primary what do you mean?? Use Sanskrit words. Do you mean it is Mukhyartha? What kind of Mukhyartha? Yougika or Rhoodi?? Always Yougika must have more value than Rhoodi in Vedas. So if the meaning of Visha is Poison, then tell which kind of Artha it is and what is the nishpatti or nirukta of the word Visha. Don't just point to dictionaries.
    – user28152
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 16:19
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The following etymology of Visha is given in Nirukta 12:26;

The word visam is a synonym of water, derived from the verb vi-sna from sna preceded by vi, meaning to purify, or from sac (to accompany) preceded by vi.

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