Aṣṭavasus

(‘the Eight Vasus’)

The Ṛgveda Saṁhitā, the basic scripture of Hinduism, contains several beauti-ful hymns addressed to gods like Indra. These Vedic gods are usually enumerated as thirty-three, among whom the ‘Aṣṭavasus’ or ‘Eight Vasus’ form the first group.

The Vasus are a class of deities, chiefly known as attendants of Indra. The word ‘Vasu’ is derived from the root ‘vas’ (‘to dwell’, ‘to cause to dwell,’ ‘to shine’) and hence the ‘Vasus’ are deities representing all spheres of extension or space, and height. They are personifications of nature and natural phenomena.

The eight Vasus are: Dharā (the earth), Anala (the fire), Ap (the waters), Anila (the wind), Dhruva (the polestar), Soma (the moon), Prabhāsa (the dawn), and Pratyūṣa (the light).

According to the Viṣṇupurāṇa (1.15) the Aṣṭavasus were the eight sons of Vasu, the wife of Dharma, and one of the ten daughters of Dakṣa Prajāpati. The Mahābhārata (1.99) says that one of them was born on earth as Bhīṣma due to a curse.