This is a famous and popular Vedic passage forming the first prapāṭhaka (Chapter) of the Taittirīya Āraṇyaka. Since it is mainly devoted to Aruṇa or the Sun god, it has been named Aruṇapraśna (or Aruṇopaniṣad). It is used extensively in all rituals and religious rites connected with Sūrya or the Sun-god on occasions such as Makarasaṇkrānti, Rathasaptamī and the month of Māgha (January- February).
It is a very long passage involving a variety of subjects. It has 32 anuvākas (sections) each anuvāka containing some kaṇḍikās (short or long mantras in prose), the total of the latter being 130.
A very brief summary of these anuvākas can now be given:
This Anuvāka is devoted entirely to praising and praying to the deities of waters.
May the deities Agni, Vāyu and Sūrya bring to me the sacred rivers—Gaṅgā Yamunā and others.
May the deities of waters give me many sons.
May they destroy all my diseases and troubles.
May the earth protect me.
Four ways of gaining knowledge are stated first.
The concept and the various divisions of time based on the movement of the sun are described next. Time personified as Kālapuruṣa (Cosmic Person of eternity) is portrayed beautifully.
However, time at the mundane level as related to sacrifices is dear to men.
This section deals with the ṛtus or seasons.
The terms mentioned here are:
|30 muhūrtas||aho-rātra, day and night, dina.|
The three well-known ṛtus described here are:
Their characteristics also are described.
The next three ṛtus are described here. They are:
In the last ṛtu, people suffer due to scarcity of water.
This describes the greatness of the gods known as ‘Viśvedevas’.
It first describes the effect of the Śiśira-ṛtu (winter) wherein people pay attention to keeping themselves warm, above all other things.
Then it declares that those who perform the rituals prescribed for each of these ṛtus (or seasons) will attain greatness here and become one with Sūrya after death.
There are seven Sūryas or Sun-gods. They are: Āroga, Bhrāja, Paṭara, Pataṅga, Svarṇara, Jyotiṣīmān and Vibhāsa.
The sage Kaśyapa who lives on the Meru mountain is considered the eighth Sūrya from whom the seven Sūryas get their power to shine.
Out of these, Āroga gives light and heat to us, of this world.
The others give light to the upper and the lower worlds.
These seven Sūryas are satiated by the offerings given by the sacrificer and give him whatever he needs and wants.
The earth and the sky are supported by Viṣṇu. They give to the human beings and animals the food that is needed.
Mṛtyu or death is of four types: para (highest), avama (lowest), madhyama (middling) and catu (the fourth).
Sūrya is para-mṛtyu. Vāyu is madhyama-mṛtyu. Jāṭharāgni (digestive power) is avama-mṛtyu. And, Candra (the Moon) is catu or the fourth mṛtyu.
These mṛtyus or deaths are ordained upon people according to their karmas.
There is an interesting description of the various punishments given to the sinners.
This anuvāka describes that there are eight Agnis, eleven Vāyus, and eleven Gandharvas.
This is followed by a prayer to Gaurī, the White One, viz., Sarasvatī, the goddess of speech.
All the gods worship Akṣara, the indestructible Brahman. They appointed the sage Jamadagni as the protector of this science of meditation on Akṣara. He created the mantras in metres like gāyatrī through which he spread the knowledge of Akṣara.
The section ends with a well-known śāntimantra ‘tacchaṁyorāvṛṇīmahe...’
Major part of this anuvāka is devoted to the praise of the Aśvins, the twin deities.
Holy ṛṣis perform sacrifices like the Somayāga which please God Varuṇa who gives plenty of rains. Soma juice, the main ingredient, is therefore eulogised here.
Next, there is the statement that those who did tapas to attain higher states were reborn as great sages like Vasiṣṭha, Atri, Marīca and Agastya.
The famous Gāyatrīmantra is a part of this Anuvāka.
Then there is a beautiful description of Paramātman as the origin and inspirer of all.
The next section declares that women who have attained the Ātman are really men whereas the ignorant men are women only!
Next, this world is compared to an inverted tree, as described in the Upaniṣads. One who realises its ephemeral nature is not afraid of death.
Then comes a short description of the ātmajñāni, man of realisation.
It ends with a special prayer to Agni and Vāyu, the gods of fire and wind, to accept the offerings in the sacrifice.
This Anuvāka is mainly devoted to praising Indra, inviting him to the sacrifice to accept the oblations and cause rain through the clouds.
It begins with the prayer of the sage to Mother Earth and the Sky (Antarikṣa). He declares that by knowing these, one has no death.
This is followed by a short story of Aditi, the mother of gods. Her eighth issue—in the form of an egg—was born ‘dead’ and so she abandoned it. It is this ‘dead-egg’ that became the Sun, who is hence called ‘Mārttāṇḍa’.
There is a strong belief that these mantras of this Anuvāka should not be heard by pregnant women since it may cause abortion!
The Sun, causing the various units of time like ahan or day, ṛtus or seasons, saṁvatsara or year, takes away our life as also our sons and animals. Hence a prayer is offered to him not to do it! Similar prayer is offered to the nakṣatras or stars also.
By meditating on the different aspects of Āditya or the Sun I can also shine like them. This is what the ṛṣi is telling.
These aspects are: eight Vasus; eleven Rudras; twelve Ādityas; those who speak truth always; the Maruts or wind gods; the Ṛbhus (a class of shining gods); the Viśvedevas; the Saṁvatsara (the year).
The ṛṣi declares ‘Being in the company of the eight Sūryas—Āroga, Bhrāja, Paṭara, Pataṅga, Svarṇara, Jyotiṣīmata, Vibhāsa and Kaśyapa—I am also shining like them!’
Then he prays: ‘Like the relationship between Sūrya and waters, let our—my and wife’s—relationship too be unbroken!’ This last prayer is spread over the anuvākas 14 to 18.
Vāyus or the Wind-gods manifest themselves in eleven pairs (along with their spouses).
Some of these are: Prabhrājamānā, Prabhrājamānī; Vyavadātā, Vyavadātī; Vāsuki-vaidyutā, Vāsuki-vaidyutī and so on.
The ṛṣi says that he shines in their places through his tejas (svatejas) or brilliance.
There is Agni in all the eight quarters. Identifying himself with each, the sage says he too shines brilliantly. Prayer for strengthening the bonds of his marriage is also offered.
There are four narakas or hells in the four intermediate directions. They are: Visarpī in āgneya or south-east; Avisarapī in Nairṛtya or south-west; Viṣādī in īśānya or north-east; and Uttarāpara in north-west.
‘Please protect us from falling into these hells!’—says the ṛṣi.
This is a prayer to the various deities like Indraghoṣas, Vasus, Manojavases, Pracetās, Rudras, Viśvakarmā, Ādityas, Tvaṣṭā, Rūpas to protect the beings in their respective regions.
This is practically a repetition of the first anuvāka.
The famous śāntimantra (peace-hymn) ‘oṁ bhadraṁ karṇebhiḥ...’ is added here.
The ṛṣis known as Ketugaṇas, Vātaraśanās and Samāhitāsas are requested to serve or pray to the Jaladevatās or the deities of waters.
This is the well-known Mantrapuṣpa. See MANTRAPUṢPA for details.
The last part deals with the creation of the worlds, the Sun and the soma juice. It also describes the setting up of the sacrificial fire known as ‘Āruṇaketukāgni’ in which Agnihotra, Darśapūrṇamāsa, Paśubandha and Cāturmāsya Yāgas are performed.
The process of creation of the world by Prajāpati (the Creator) from āpas or primeval waters is described first, as also the birth of some sages like Aruṇas and Ketus from his body.
Suddenly there appeared Brahman in the form of a Cosmic Tortoise who completed the process by creating the Āditya (the Sun), Agni (the fire), Vāyu (the wind and Indra (the king of gods). The quarters as also a number of other beings were also produced by Him. Then he entered into his own creation. Hence the whole creation is Brahman Himself. One who realises this enters into Brahman or becomes Brahman.
There are four sources of water in nature. They are: megha (clouds); vidyut (lightning); tuṣāra (fog); vṛṣṭi (rains).
There are other sources of water on earth. The water from these sources is used in the Āruṇaketuka sacrifice as follows: Water collected from rain is kept in a container to the east of the sacrificial altar. Well-water is kept in the south. Water collected from small tanks is kept in the west. River water is collected and sprinkled in the direction of north. Water stored in the house in vessels is placed in the middle of the altar. Water from small pits is also collected and sprinkled on the bricks of the altar.
The section ends with the beneficiary results of Āruṇaketuka sacrifice.
This section describes the method of preparing an altar for the five Vedic fires. Digging a pit, filling it partly with water, spreading a lotus leaf and placing its stems and flowers and bricks over it, the altar is to be built.
There are five fires: Sāvitra, Nāciketa, Cāturhotriya, Vaiśvasṛja and Upānuvakya. The sacrificer can offer oblations into these fires separately as per the desire he wants to be fulfilled such as getting children, acquiring cows, rains, health and destroying the enemies.
The Anuvāka warns human beings not to dirty water nor eat animals living in water like tortoise.
Worshipping the Āruṇaketukāgni and offering oblations into it as per the rules of the sacrifices can produce various results. Some of them are: Freedom from the effects of even mortal sins; attaining long life and heaven; realising Brahman; driving away evil spirits; destroying inauspiciousness.
It also urges human beings to forsake the terrible attachment to the body.
This is a prayer to Agni to drive away all the evil spirits, including their mother Vācyā (or Amaṅgala).
At the instance of the yajamāna (the sacrificer), the ṛtviks (priests) offer a prayer to Parjanya, the rain-god, so that people can have plenty of rain.
This contains a prayer for the protection and increase of virility.
The first part contains a prayer to Kubera-Vaiśravaṇa inviting him to the sacrifice. The second part contains some rituals like giving bali (sacrificial offering).
This part of the Veda should never be imparted to anyone who is forgetful and callous.
One who wants to perform the Āruṇa-ketuka sacrifice should observe certain rules and austerities for one year or at least two months.
He has to bathe three times a day. He should beg for food and eat only once in the day. He has to offer sticks of audumbara wood (Ficus racemosa) in the homa with mantras addressed to eleven deities such as Agni, Vāyu, Sūrya, Brahmā and others with the syllable svāhā. Homa should be offered to the ṛṣis known as Aruṇas.
Svādhyāya or Vedic studies should be kept up in the forest.
One who observes all these, becomes a tapasvī (sage) and a puṇya (auspicious person).