Aditi

(‘the boundless’)

Aditi, the ‘devamātā’ (mother of the gods) is one of the few goddesses mentioned in the Ṛgveda and other Vedic literature. She is often associated with Diti, her sister, and mother of the daityas (demons). She is eulogised as the boundless and identified with practically everything in the created world. She is the sky and the air. The three aspects of time are also she. She has become all the human beings, nay, even the gods. She is the mother and she is the father too. That is why supplications are made to her to confer her blessings on children and cattle as also for the removal of sins (vide Ṛgveda Saṁhitā 1.89.10).

In the mythological lore of the Vedas she is usually described as one of the daughters of Dakṣa, though sometimes she is said to be his mother. There are also passages which mention her as the wife of Viṣṇu instead of Kaśyapa. However according to most of the accounts she was married to the sage Kaśyapa for whom she bore several sons. The gods being her sons are called Āditeyas. Sometimes the eight Ādityas are described as her sons. Out of these eight, she is said to have cast out the last son Mārttaṇḍa.

Coming to the Upaniṣads, the word ‘Aditi’ is used to denote death, the devourer (ad to devour) (Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 1.2.5), and the deity presiding over the earth (Mahānārayaṇa Upaniṣad 28.1) as also the jīvātman or the individual soul (Kaṭha Upaniṣad 4.7).

In the epics and the purāṇas she is always depicted as the daughter of Dakṣa, wife of Kaśyapa and mother of gods including the Vāmana incarnation of Viṣṇu. Indra is said to have picked up a pair of divine kuṇḍalas (ear-rings) as they were thrown up by the churning of the primeval ocean (See SAMUDRAMATHANA) and presented them to Aditi. But the demon Narakāsura Bhauma (the son of Bhūmi or earth) stole them from her. It was Kṛṣṇa who recovered and restored them to her.

Aditi is also the name of a place of pilgrimage on the bank of the river Gaṅgā.