In Vedic classifications of space we may distinguish two approaches.1 The one refers to the quarters of space, the other to cosmic layers. The quarters of space do not necessarily denote a geographic distribution corresponding to actual regions of the Indian subcontinent or of the world. Often they refer to a particular sphere (even outside the universe) which is symbolically, or on account of associations, connected with the relevant quarter of space. As is well known, classifications are based on enumerations or series and their homologies or equations. If two series are equated, the single items of these two should correspond, even if the major reason for the equation of these series is their corresponding number of items. The background of some of these homologies may escape us at first sight, but mostly some empathy with the associative way of thinking helps to solve the problems. In this article not only the regular classifications of series of items placed together with other series in one-to-one equations will be discussed. Implied equations will not be excluded.
In the case of the quarters of space mostly the number four forms the starting point, but the intermediate quarters may be included and then the number eight plays a role, though eightfold classifications are hardly found.2 The fact that sometimes the totality of the intermediate quarters of space is equated with Pitṛloka and hell3 shows that the actual geographic location is not essential. Probably these equations of all the intermediate quarters of space with hell and Pitṛloka started from the South-West and the South-East.4 It seems that the SE is associated with the Pitṛloka and the SW with hell and Nirṛti.5
Though the four or eight quarters belong to the horizontal sphere in daily practice (see also AB 6, 32, 20 on four transverse quarters and one upward), in religious symbolism some of them may be associated with a yonder world which lies either in heaven or in the nether world, i.e. outside the horizontal sphere.
The number of four may be extended to five, six or seven by including the centre as well as the zenith and nadir (which lie outside the horizontal sphere).
In cosmic classifications which are not connected with the quarters of space the series of items is basically vertical. Such a series may consist of a concrete cosmic triad or of seven “worlds.” The fact that some of the worlds between the third (= heaven) and the seventh (= the Brahmaloka) are connected with death and darkness implies that these cosmic classifications are not purely cosmographical.6
Non-cosmographical factors like the alternation of day and night may play a role. A fundamental problem is the correlation of the vertical, cosmic classification and the horizontal one of the quarters of space7 which may represent or symbolize items of the vertical series. Where in the classification of the quarters of space do we have to situate heaven, where the heavenly world of the Forefathers, where the nether world of the deceased, where the hell of demons, criminals and enemies? And why were these associations made?
I will first discuss the quarters of space and then the cosmic classification, and finally I will try to show their correspondences. The aim of this article is to obtain more information on the actual localisation of a realm of death which is different from paradise and its heavenly pleasures.
1 The Quarters of Space
The four quarters of space, based on practical orientation in daily life, seem to participate in several types of classifications.
One is hierarchical, basically threefold and reflects the social structure. There are also three groups of gods, sometimes headed by single deities, in some cases replaced by them. These threefold classifications which are sometimes combined or mixed up require a fourth item in order to be adapted to the classification of the quarters.
According to Smith (1994, 15 ff.) the fundamental classification would be triadic and based on the social structure. See also p. 26 on the social classes being “the prototype for the classification of other realms.” Smith too much bases his ideas on theories of Durkheim and Dumézil which are no more accepted by most scholars in Europe. See e.g. Gonda (1976, 125): “And, what is no less interesting, their triad is, as far as I am able to see, neither paradigmatic nor made the basis of an argument. That means that as compared with the above macrocosmic, microcosmic and ritual triads the ‘social triad’ does not play a fundamental rôle in the speculations and classificatory system of the ritualists. The conclusion seems therefore to be obvious that any attempt at viewing the phenomena under discussion primarily from the sociological angle and at explaining the meaning and origin of the triadic line of thought on the basis of sociological arguments should, as far as Vedic antiquity is concerned, be judged with due caution and considerable reserve.”
I agree with Gonda. The connection of the one triad with the other is also problematic since the one based on social structure is hierarchical whereas the cosmic triad shows a cosmographic layering which need not be interpreted as hierarchical.
Another classificatory approach starts from two sets of oppositions. In this classification the basic opposition is between East and West, associated with sunrise and sunset. In several cultures the West, where the sun sets, represents darkness, night and the nether world. It is the entrance to the subterranean world and especially in cultures practising inhumation this underworld is the world of the deceased. So the West8 giving entrance to the world of the deceased may represent death and the deceased. In some cultures yonder world is actually situated in the West,9 i.e. in the horizontal sphere, e.g. on islands in the West. In Vedic India this is not the case, though the West is connected with Varuṇa, whose association with death is explicitly mentioned in Vedic texts.10
Just as the West forms the entrance to the nether world the East forms its exit and represents heaven to which the sun rises.
On the other hand we have an opposition between the North and the South. In the Veda the South is associated with death, darkness and destruction and the nether world, though the South has more warmth than the cold North. The actual amount of light, however, is not relevant. Again the course of the sun is decisive. Now it is not the daily course of the sun which provides the symbolism, but its yearly course. The dark half of the year is the southern course of the sun (the dakṣiṇāyana).11 The dark half of the year and every dark part of any unit of time (month, twenty-four hours) are darkness (see ĀgGS 2, 6, 8 on the equation of night and the South) and as such represent death12 and the nether world (see KB 5, 8, 1–3 on the equation of Pitṛs and the waning part of the moon and the afternoon). Therefore the South represents the world of the deceased. The unfavourable aspects of the South (see also n. 32) are shared by the South-West and even the South-East according to Devasvāmin’s commentary on ĀśvGS 1, 22, 19.
This observation may give rise to questions, since in Vedic ritualistic texts life after death and consequently the world of the Forefathers were connected with light and happiness. Apparently death and yonder world remained associated with the nether world and became increasingly located in the subterranean sphere, in spite of the optimistic ideas about life after death found in connection with śrauta rituals and some Atharvanic rites.13
Now one might expect that in opposition to the South and the world of death and destruction the world of the gods and a positive Pitṛloka would be situated in the North. However, this quarter is not associated with the Pitṛs, but either with human beings14 or with gods and men.15 As will be shown in 1.1 and 1.2 the basic oppositions are formed by the East belonging to the gods and the West associated with Asuras and demons, the North16 belonging to life and the human beings and the South associated with death and the Pitṛs. The combination of gods and men in one quarter should have been situated in the North-East.17 This quarter is also the door to heaven (ŚB 6, 6, 2, 4), whereas the South-East is the door to the world of the Pitṛs (ŚB 13, 8, 1, 5). The opposition of NE and SW is described as one between medhya and amedhya (MS 4, 1, 10: 14.5–6). Since the South is explicitly associated with the Pitṛs we are hardly entitled to interpret the Manuṣyaloka in the North as the world of deceased human beings. The opposition between North and South is between life18 and death, this world19 and yonder world of the Pitṛs. Though the distance from North to East and from South to East is the same in practice, in these classifications the symbolic difference is great. In the intermediate quarters NE and SE the northern and the southern aspects are dominant. The difference between heaven and the world of the Pitṛs was still enormous. The classification of the quarters was primarily based on sets of oppositions like N–S, E–W, NE–SW.20 Four groups of beings are involved: the gods (E), the Pitṛs (S), the Asuras or demons (W) and the human beings (N). The Pitṛs are situated somewhere between the gods (E) and the demons (W). The problem of Vedic literature is that in most of the śrauta texts, which promise a more or less heavenly world for the institutors of impressive rituals, the world of the ancestors is near the gods, whereas the destination of the common people seems to be the nether world. Perhaps at least three future locations should be discerned: heaven (E) for a very select group, a Pitṛloka for meritorious deceased (SE) and a nether world for the common people (S).
The enumeration of the four quarters of space is clockwise (following the course of the sun) and starts in the East.
1.1 East and West
In the fourfold, “horizontal” classification the first item, the East, is without exception positive. It mostly has Agni (here representing the sun?)21 as its ádhipati. He is the overlord of the world of heaven (AB 3, 42, 1).22 The East23 is the Devaloka (TB 2, 1, 8, 1). It is the quarter of the Devas.24 It is called prā́cī díś, because in the ritual going forward is going to the East which represents heaven or the entrance to heaven.25 Winning the light (of the East) means winning heaven. Moreover the forward movement of the Aryans was to the East and bringing Agni (fire) to the East is overcoming the non-Aryans, and this repeats the acts of the gods who defeated the Asuras. Though originally inhabited by non-Aryans this quarter became in the older Veda the good quarter, the future in daily life.26
Its opposite number, the pratī́cī díś,27 is lying behind the priest and the Aryan invader. In opposition to the quarter of the gods this quarter is incidentally said to belong to the human beings (ŚB 7, 4, 2, 40; ṢaḍvB 3, 1, 28). It is also associated with Varuṇa, waters, Soma, snakes, sleep, Rākṣases and Asuras,28 i.e. items connected with the nether world (if Soma represents the moon). The equation with Savitṛ29 is rather strange unless we should connect Savitṛ with the setting sun and the evening. The basic opposition is between heaven and nether world, but there are no explicit indications that this nether world is the destination of human beings. The connection with death may be inferred on account of the cosmic classification in which after the cosmic triad the world of death and of Varuṇa is mentioned (see 2.1).
1.2 South and North
The South30 forms an opposition with the North. It is called the right quarter (dákṣiṇā díś) on account of the orientation which is focused on the East in the ritual and in the expansion of the Aryans. However, this appellation has nothing to do with the well-known opposition between right and left31 in which the right is the positive element. We have already mentioned (p. 177) a possible and acceptable explanation for the connection between the South on the one hand and darkness,32 death and the world of the deceased on the other. Lincoln (1981, 241) starting from a positive Pitṛloka in the South explains this paradise by assuming that for the Proto-Indo-Europeans the South was a “region from which light is constant, a region whose warmth stands in marked contrast to the wintery north.” However, in Vedic India the South and the world of the deceased are not a paradise.33
The South is so often associated with the Pitṛs in Vedic literature (especially outside the classifications) that there is no need to give general references. In the lists of the classifications the association of the Pitṛs with the South is not very current.34 We expect Yama as the deity of the South and as the leader of the Pitṛs,35 and actually he is sometimes mentioned as such.36 In a fourfold classification of the quarters of space in TS 5, 2, 5, 3 the Pitṛs are associated with the South, the Rākṣases with the West, Rudra with the East, and gods and men with the auspicious quarter, the North. Here not only the West and the South but even the East are inauspicious and men rather than Pitṛs form a couple with the gods. In this context the Pitṛloka does not look like a place somewhere in heaven.
The incidental association of Soma with the South (e.g. ŚB 3, 2, 3, 17 and KB 7, 7, 15–23) may be based on the equation of Soma and moon (cf. n. 98) and the latter’s connection with death and Pitṛs.37 Being the second item of a classification which is connected with the Varṇas king Soma may also represent the Kṣatriyas,38 though much more frequently it is king Indra who is regarded as the lord of the South.39
The North as the world of the living human beings (see n. 15) has no specific deity of its own in this respect. In later times the position of the Lokapāla who protected the North was also not fully established. In Vedic texts sometimes Soma is associated with the North, but often Rudra is the deity of this quarter of space. Both deities have no specific relation to living human beings. It is possible that Soma here is the plant used for the ritual and that this plant (just like Rudra) is especially associated with the mountains, as is stated by AV 3, 3, 3; these mountains (in the form of the Himālaya) may represent the North. If Soma here represents the moon a different explanation is possible (see n. 109 below). See also the explanation for Varuṇa’s incidental association with the North (3.3) based on the fourth position in a different classification.
1.3 The Quarters of Space and the Classes
In this classification in which the quarters of space are homologized with groups of gods as well as with their leading deities, the position of these individual gods is different. Indra, the champion of the Devas, who in the classification of the quarters may sometimes represent the East (as the counterpart of Varuṇa and the Asuras in the West) now is associated with the South. This has nothing to do with the nether world and the Pitṛloka, but is based on the hierarchy of the classes. The East comes first and is equated with the first metre (Gāyatrī), the first Varṇa (the Brahmins) and its corresponding deity, Agni. The South is the second quarter and is equated with the second metre (the Triṣṭubh), the second Varṇa (the Kṣatriyas) and its deity, Indra. Actually, Indra is connected with the Kṣatriyas rather than with the South and its aspects of death and darkness.
The third region, the West, should be associated with the Vaiśyas in this hierarchical classification, and enough material on this equation is available.40 The third class consists of the majority of the people, and consequently the third region, the West, should be especially associated with a group of gods.
However, three groups of gods are also associated with all the three regions East, South and West, and these three groups of gods (Vasus, Rudras and Ādityas) may also he headed by one god. This means that the gods of the West, the Ādityas, have Varuṇa as their leader. The same Varuṇa is also connected with the West on account of his association with the nether world (the West as the opposite of the East). In this classification of the quarters of space Varuṇa mostly occupies the third position (Agni—Indra—Varuṇa) just as in the other one (Agni/Indra—Yama—Varuṇa; cf. n. 2).
The North should belong to the Śūdras in this hierarchical classification, but in practice it “is often socially neutral in relation to the other varṇa-encoded directions” (Smith 1994, 148, who also assumes that “the semantic meaning of the north more or less reduplicates that of the west … the north often appears to have many of the same features as the Vaishya west”). It is obvious that the North as the region of the human beings (cf. n. 15) in the classification of the quarters of space (North versus South, East versus West) cannot have any agreement with the North as the region of the fourth class. Smith (1994, 146–150), however, tries to combine all the types of classifications and then concludes with a disconnected enumeration: “The north, according to the criteria surveyed thus far, is the wild card. It can be associated with humans in general, but is also depicted as the special direction of the Brahmins or, alternatively, of the Kshatriyas; it is also represented as the direction of the lower classes in general.”
It should be observed here that the human beings in general and lower classes in general (i.e. the people in distinction to the rulers and the priests) are different categories. The human beings in general form an opposition to the deceased in the South. The lower classes in general belong to a social hierarchy.
The classification of the classes is basically triadic. This implies that the North in this classification is problematic. If a group of gods like the Viśve Devas41 is equated with the North, this has no relation to the fourth class. Here the fourth is the item added to a fixed series, i.e. to a triad, just as in the cosmic classifications treated in 2.2 and 2.4. These gods are a separate category as the All-gods, but at the same time they represent all the gods, i.e. they include and sum up the three preceding items.42 It is remarkable that in classifications which combine lists of gods and of classes the Śūdras may occur in fourth position, but then the gods are left out.43 The Śūdras here represent just the fourth class, not totality. In connection with the North the classification of the gods does not agree with the classification of the classes.
1.4 More Than Four Quarters of Space
The four quarters discussed in the preceding sections represent a horizontal distribution from the geographical point of view. In the classificatory system, however, they refer to several cosmic layers: heaven, the region of the gods (East), nether world, the world of the Asuras (West), earth, the sphere of the living beings (North), and the probably subterranean world of the deceased (South). The intermediate quarters SE and SW seem to represent the Pitṛloka and hell, and the totality of the intermediate quarters is also associated with hell.
The seemingly horizontal classification of the four quarters of space may also be extended to more than four quarters, and then the vertical aspects are quite evident, especially in sixfold and sevenfold classifications.
The fifth quarter is the centre and represents the totality of the quarters of space; see Gonda (1965b, 131): “The universe is divided into four parts with a fifth which is its ‘centre’, that is to say, which represents the idea of the whole, surpassing and encompassing the constituent parts.” This aspect of totality of the fifth (the fixed set of four + 1) is the same as in the case of the fourth added to a fixed (cosmic) triad (see n. 42). In addition the symbolism of the centre (Gonda 1983a, 386) plays a role. This fifth quarter is still on the horizontal level, though incidentally (AB 6, 32, 20) the fifth may be conceived as the zenith (ūrdhvā).
In a fivefold classification the Viśve Devas may form the fifth group of gods,44 and then again they represent the totality of the gods. Similarly in the classification of colours and quarters of space the fifth item, the centre, is citra, viśvarūpa or pañcavarṇa, i.e. a combination of all the other four colours (see Goudriaan 1978, 196 and 201). Mostly the groups of gods are accompanied or ruled by one single god, and in this case Bṛhaspati is associated with the Viśve Devas in fifth position. It seems that this deity stands above all the other gods (cf. Goudriaan 1978, 201 on the centre and sovereignty) and is associated with the upper world and the zenith, since in sixfold classifications he is located above.45
Bṛhaspati may implicitly or even explicitly be described as situated above the rest in the fivefold classification (though zenith and centre tend to become confused); in the sixfold and sevenfold classifications there is rather an opposition between the upper world and the nether world.46
In the sixfold classification the centre and the nadir are sometimes confused in the texts (and in modern interpretations). The term used is dhruvā́ díś. The word dhruvá has two aspects. On the one hand it denotes the centre, on the other it refers to a stable basis (Gonda 1965b, 131), and then it can be connected with the name of the firm or steadfast pole-star. The association of dhruvá with the centre is difficult to explain. Perhaps the image of a wheel here plays a role. Everything keeps turning, but in the middle something is fixed and stable, the axle. It is remarkable that in MBh 1, 3, 150 nityaṁ carati dhruve ’smin cakre the fixedness of a wheel which is turned around is indicated by the adjective dhruva. The non-moving centre of the wheel, the axle, may have been associated with the axis mundi. For the connection of this cosmic pin with dhruvá and the dhruvā́ díś see Gonda (1965b, 246).
In the context of a fivefold classification of the quarters of space the dhruvā́ díś would seem to denote the centre, but this “region” is not always the horizontal centre (the mádhya).
BR (3:1001) calls the dhruvā diś “der Fusspunkt.” However, the term dhruva may be associated with the centre, but this association is not restricted to the horizontal sphere. Somehow it has to do with the perpendicular line which goes down from the zenith and may reach the nadir.
Gonda (1965b, 230 and 1970, 6 [“dhruvā dik—which is not the nadir, but the fixed or central quarter, that is the central place on the earth under the zenith”]) rejects other translations than “centre, middle.” Kuiper (1979, 243) observes that “the possibility should be considered, that it is not the centre in general that is meant here but more specifically the nadir—a possibility which Gonda 1970 Viṣṇuism and Śivaism, p. 17 [correct into “p. 6, n. 17”], too rashly denies. Cf. also the commentary ad AS. III.27.5 dhruvā́ dík: adhodik.”
In support of Gonda the following places may be adduced. In AV 15, 4, 5 the dhruvā́ díś (in fifth position) is associated with the earth and fire, whereas the ūrdhvā́ díś is connected with heaven and sun (cf. AV 15, 6, 1). Here there is no indication that a place under the earth is meant. See also TS 5, 5, 10, 2, where the zenith is the fifth quarter (called bṛhatī́) and the sixth is called “this (iyám) region.”47 In 5, 5, 10, 4 the opposition is between “above” (zenith) and “here” (ihá), which points to the earth rather than to the nether world, and in a note on his translation Keith observes that the mentioned pronoun and adverb denote “the point of observation of the speaker.” In AB 8, 14, 3 the zenith is in sixth position and the fifth quarter is characterized as dhruvā but also as “this one here” and as madhyamā, which confirms Gonda’s interpretation. In AV 4, 40, 5 the dhruvā́ díś is connected with the concept of being down (adhástāt) but also with the bhū́mi. See also ŚB 1, 3, 2, 4 where the dhruvā́ spoon is identified with the earth. By way of its representative, fire, the earth is connected with the dhruvā́ díś in BĀU 3, 9, 24, where the interpretation of this quarter of space rather varies in the translations.48
On the other hand there are arguments for the association with the nadir. In TS 5, 5, 10, 2 (see above) the overlord of “this quarter” is Yama, whose place is under rather than on the earth. In the parallel passage MS 2, 13, 21: 167.8 Viṣṇu is the overlord of the ávācī díś (corresponding to “this quarter” in TS). This may indicate that Viṣṇu (elsewhere connected with the dhruvā́ díś, e.g. AV 3, 27, 5; 12, 3, 59; 15, 14, 5) perhaps was onesidedly associated with the centre on and above the earth by Gonda (1970, 6 f.). For Viṣṇu’s connection with the nether world see Kuiper (1983, 48 ff.).
Combining AV 18, 3, 29 with 18, 3, 34 we may conclude that god Sustainer (Dhartṛ) sustains from the dhruvā́ díś. If there is any connection with the axis mundi this would imply that from the nether world a particular god bears the universe.49
It is true that the opposition between above and below may refer to heaven and earth,50 but the explicit references to down, downward and below in positions comparable to the dhruvā́ díś make it probable that the concept of a nadir was known and that at least in some passages the dhruvā́ díś should denote this region. See JB 2, 142 on adhastāt versus upariṣṭāt; TS 5, 5, 9, 5 on gods acting from above (especially Indra) and from below (especially Varuṇa).51 Here we may also take into account TB 2, 2, 10, 5–6, where six quarters of space are mentioned and the fifth and sixth are denoted by terms referring to zenith and nadir. First four groups of gods are mentioned which are surrounding (pári + viś) one central deity from the East, South, West and North. Then the enumeration continues with Aṅgirasas and Sādhyas who are sitting in a position in which this god is facing them, resp. is turned away from them (the god being pratyáñcam, resp. párāñcam). Here it is quite clear that the Sādhyas are below the central deity. They are beyond the deity in the centre and consequently are “turned away, turned down-wards” themselves. The term parāvát mostly denotes the nether world (originally distance). It is remarkable, however, that the opposition of Aṅgirasas and Sādhyas is different in ChU 3, 10, 1, where the former are adhastāt and the later upariṣṭāt. On the other hand the Sādhyas are said to be adhastāt in JB 2, 142. Therefore AB 8, 14, 3, in which the Sādhyas are associated with the central (madhyamā) dhruvā quarter of space, may refer to the nadir (see Kuiper 1979, 243).
In MaiU 7, 6 several items arise from below (adhastāt), and it is clear that here the nadir is meant, since i.a. serpents, demons, spirits, human beings are mentioned, i.e. beings staying in the nether world.52 In KB 23, 11, 43–45 the sixth world or region is associated with the waters and the nadir.53
Should we assume that the dhruvā́ díś in some contexts denotes the nether world and in others the centre on rather than below the earth? It is also possible that the connecting point between the two views is the central position of the axis mundi, which pierces the earth in the centre or navel of the world. Just like every stick or pole this axis mundi is symbolically associated with the nether world.54 Moreover the earth does not only denote the place on which, but also under which55 people “live.” So the opposition of zenith and nadir refers to the top and bottom of the axis mundi, and just as heaven forms the ceiling of the upper world the earth is the ceiling of the nether world. The fixedness of the centre may indeed not only refer to the centre or axle of a wheel, but also to the axis mundi and its representatives.56
2 The Cosmic Classifications of the Worlds
This classification starts with a vertical subdivision of space: earth, intermediate space, heaven (or sky). The gods especially associated with these three worlds are Agni (fire), Vāyu and Āditya or Sūrya. Of course such a triad also became connected with the triad of the social stratification, the more so since Agni forms the codeword for Brahmins in that classification. The fact that the lowest world was equated with the highest social class, however, clearly indicates that two sorts of classifications were mixed up here and that the classification of the classes originally did not belong to this cosmic classification.
Again the fourth item is problematic. As fourth deity mostly the moon is mentioned (the fourth cosmic light). Since the preceding three deities were all associated with a world, the moon should also receive such a cosmic counterpart. Now the problem is that earth, intermediate space and heaven form a cosmographic series of entities placed on top of each other. The world of the moon, however, is the sky just as the world of the sun. The only difference is that the world of the moon is the nocturnal sky.57 The night as the world of the moon alternates with the sky of the day-time as the world of the sun. Therefore one may doubt whether the fourth world was always considered to be higher (in a cosmographic sense) than the third.58
2.1 The Sevenfold Classification
In these cosmic classifications the items following the cosmic triad are symbolical rather than representing concrete worlds. Before returning to the moon (at least visible during the night) we will first discuss the larger cosmic classifications which are in principle sevenfold. The Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa has the most elaborate treatment of this subject in four passages.59
JB 1, 334 calls the first world Upodaka (“lying on the waters”). It is the earth situated above the subterranean waters.60 The first three gods are Agni, Vāyu and Āditya and their worlds are undoubtedly earth, intermediate space and heaven. Varuṇa is the god of the fourth world called Adhidyu (“on heaven”?).61 This might support the view that the fourth world in other passages should also be taken as actually lying “above” heaven. However, the fifth world (called Pradyu) and the sixth world (called Rocana, “luminous”) are the “seats” of Death and Hunger. Mostly Varuṇa and the god of death share the same world. Moreover, hunger is to be interpreted as a symbol or source of death. It is not clear why its world should be called “shining.”62 The seventh world (called “top”) is the world of Brahman.
In my view such a sevenfold classification represents the world of life (1–3) (= day), of death (4–6) (= night) and of immortality (the Brahmaloka, as Brahman the aim of mokṣa in later texts).63
JB 3, 341–347 has a more elaborate treatment of the topic. The successive items are: 1 Agni + Vasus in the Upodaka, 2 Vāyu + Rudras in the Ṛtadhāman, 3 Candramas + Ādityas in the Śiva world, 4 Sun + Viśve Devas in the Aparājita, 5 Varuṇa in the Adhidyu, 6 Death in the Pradyu, 7 Hunger in the Rocana world (= night and day; = hunger and thirst), 8 Kāma, 9 Suvar, 10 Nāka. The additions are Candramas and Death, Kāma and Suvar. Thirst has been left out.
It is clear that the third and the fourth worlds have become transposed and mixed up.64 As we have seen in JB 1, 334, the sevenfold series may be interpreted as 3 + 3 + 1. In other cosmic classifications we find a distribution 3 + 1 (Agni/earth, Vāyu/air, Āditya/heaven + Candramas/ night, stars, waters) or 3 + 2 (the mentioned triad + the mentioned nocturnal items + representatives of totality); see 2.2 below. The fourth and the fifth items (gods and their lokas) are sometimes mixed up, as we shall see. In the present passage (JB 3, 341–347) an incidental confusion of the third and the fourth items is found.
The sun should be in third and the moon in fourth position. The groups of gods (Vasus up to Viśve Devas) are in the correct order, but the combination with the corresponding deities Agni, Indra, Varuṇa and Bṛhaspati is missing. The series starting with Agni and Vāyu should have been continued with Āditya (3) and Candramas (4), as usual in Vedic classifications.
The items Candramas (to be put in fourth position), Varuṇa, Death and Hunger belong together as death or the stage before immortality. The Brahmaloka is represented by 8–10 (Kāma, Suvar, Nāka).65 A shorter version is found in JB 3, 348. It includes a partial identification with the microcosmic powers (prāṇas). The order of the items is as follows: 1 Upodaka, human beings, Agni, waters; 2 Ṛtadhāman, Gandharvāpsaras, Vāyu, prāṇa; 3 Aparājita, moon, sun, manas; 4 Adhidyu, Ādityas, Varuṇa, anṛta; 5 Pradyu, Rudras, death, ṛta; 6 Rocana, Vasus, yajña, satya.
In this complex sixfold classification the seventh item (representing Brahman) is missing. There is some agreement with the directly preceding classification of JB 3, 341–347. However, in the series of lokas not only the last three are missing. The world called śiva (in JB 3, 347 in third position and homologized with Candramas and the Ādityas) is left out too. The series of the deities 1–5 is identical, but now Āditya and Candramas have to share one loka (the Aparājita), which is very exceptional since the one belongs to the day-time and the other (Candramas) to the night (like Varuṇa and Mṛtyu).
In the series of microcosmic powers vāc is clearly missing in first position (where the waters definitely are misplaced, since in Vedic classifications this item belongs to the fourth world, in fact is the fourth world). In third position manas agrees with Candramas, but not with Āditya (whose corresponding microcosmic power cakṣus is missing). The groups of deities are not associated with worlds 1–3 (or 1–4), but occur in the positions 4–6 (and in reverse order). Now Varuṇa is correctly associated with the third group (the Ādityas), but the Rudras (the second group) are connected with Death (instead of Indra), i.e. with the deity who belongs to the South in a different classification of the quarters of space. The Vasus (the first group, situated in the East) have no corresponding deity. It should have been Agni. Instead yajña seems to have been included.
We may conclude that several systems of classification have been combined here and that the result is sometimes confusing. JB 3, 384 has the normal order Upodaka, Ṛtadhāman, Aparājita, Adhidiva, Pradiva, Rocana, Brahmaloka/Viṣṭapa. The analysis should be: 1–3 (life), 4–6 (death, mortality), 7 (immortality).
KB 20, 1, 5 ff. contains 10 items, but if we leave out 1–3 (gods, fathers, living beings) the classification is sevenfold and comparable to those discussed above: Agni, Vāyu, Indra (= Āditya), Varuṇa (adhidiva), Death (pratidiva), Brahman, Nāka; i.e. 1–3; 4–5; 6–7. It is uncertain whether Death should be associated with a world called pratidiva or pradyu in this text place and in the discussed parallels from the JB.
These sevenfold cosmic classifications are found in late Brāhmaṇa texts. Here heaven is no more the final and highest destination, since death in the form of punarmṛtyu is still threatening in yonder world. The overcoming of this punarmṛtyu implies the reaching of real immortality. In competition with the renouncers and philosophers who were looking for mokṣa in Brahman, these late Brāhmaṇas promised a Brahmaloka above the Lokas of Indra and other deities.66 In JB 3, 341–347 the Brahmaloka (especially as represented by Kāma) is still completely traditional, offering enjoyments which do not suit the concept of Brahman (see n. 65).
2.2 The Fourfold/Fivefold Classification
Instead of a sevenfold (3 + 3 + 1 or 3 + 2 + 2) we sometimes find a fourfold or fivefold classification in which the first three items represent the cosmic triad whereas the fourth item, as we have seen above, refers to the night and items associated with the night like e.g. the moon, Varuṇa, and death. The fourth item may be subdivided into more than one item as is the case in the five places discussed above.
However, the fourth item may also have a different function and represent the item added to a fixed series which as such represents totality (and non-differentiation).67 This means that the fourth item, when it is subdivided into a fourth and a fifth, may refer to the nocturnal aspect as well as to totality. Sometimes even the fourth as well as the fifth denote symbols of totality, and sometimes the fourth and the fifth form a mixture of the symbols of night and totality. Actually, the fourth world as such (i.e. the night) also represents totality, since night coincides with the three worlds of the day-time, which now have become more or less indistinct. Therefore totality and indistinctness as well as night and its associations with death may occur side by side in the fourfold/fivefold classifications.
In an old text like MS 2, 8, 14: 117.7 ff. (cf. TS 4, 4, 5, 1 f.) we find elements of the first four items of the sevenfold classification as discussed above. The order is: 1) Udapurā world—food—human beings—Agni; 2) Aparājitā—bráhman—Maruts—Vāyu; 3) Adhidyu—amṛ́ta—Viśve Devas—Sūrya. The three deities (Agni, Vāyu, Sūrya) are the usual ones. However, the sun in third position is associated with the Viśve Devas, who belong to the fourth position. Moreover Adhidyu mostly is the world of Varuṇa rather than of the sun. The Aparājita world in second position (associated with Vāyu) is very surprising. Likewise one does not expect bráhman in second position (and associated with the Maruts). It is obvious that amṛ́ta68 belongs to the fourth world. Apparently items of the four worlds were placed in three worlds in order to suit the ritual application, in which three layers of the Agniciti represent earth, intermediate space and heaven.
A regular fourfold classification, be it in the form of an enumeration of four very evident pairs, is found in ŚB 11, 6, 3, 6: 1) Agni + earth; 2) Vāyu + intermediate space; 3) Āditya + heaven; 4) Moon + stars.69 Here the 4 + 4 items are equated with the eight Vasus and the fourth world is only represented by its nocturnal aspect. Actually, the stars do not form a world (like earth or the sky) but a luminous entity like fire, sun and the moon itself. However, these stars may also be taken as the symbols of the nocturnal sky (for which no other term was available). The fourth position in such an enumeration does not indicate that moon and stars are higher than the sun and heaven in third position, in spite of the fact that the first three worlds indeed are placed in a successive cosmographical order.
Most “worlds” connected with the fourth position do not belong to a concrete level of the cosmos. They represent some sort of totality like the quarters of space70 (the totality of space) and the seasons71 (the totality of time).
The deities associated with the fourth world (apart from the moon and its alter ego Soma, and Varuṇa) are the Viśve Devas (the group representing totality; see p. 184) and Prajāpati (totality and indistinctness; the highest, transcendent god72 or the god of the primeval world?). It is difficult to obtain a concretisation on the basis of this material. Apart from the concept of a nocturnal73 sky no concrete world becomes evident.
2.3 The Waters as Fourth or Fifth World
The only concretisation is the waters. This entity is not a symbol of totality like the quarters of space, since the waters do not agree with the three cosmic items. These waters only denote a concrete or more or less concrete world, a heavenly ocean. The waters may be called ā́pas, but also samudrá; see ChU 4, 6, 3, where the fourth world (after the well-known cosmic triad) is called ocean, and ChU 2, 17, 1 which places the ocean in fifth position (after the cosmic triad and the quarters of space). In ChU 4, 12, 1 the moon, the stars, the quarters of space and the waters are associated. This evidently refers to the fourth world, and the waters mentioned here are identical with the ocean in the two quoted places from this Upaniṣad. This ocean probably refers to the situation of the night, i.e. it should be taken as a nocturnal sky. The ocean which is equated with mánas in ŚB 7, 5, 2, 52 can hardly refer to the terrestrial ocean, since mánas often is equated with the fourth world, the moon and Prajāpati.
KB 18, 2, 8 explicitly calls the waters the fourth74 world. Klaus (1986, 56) refers to this text place and observes that incidentally the waters are mentioned in fourth position and that only in the GB this association is more frequently found. He explains this by pointing to the fourth position of the Atharvaveda itself, but this does not make clear why it is particularly the waters that are connected with this fourth position.75
Klaus (1986, 58) rejects the association of night and moon on the one side and the waters on the other, arguing that a characteristic of one item need not be transferred to an other item which occupies the same position in a classification: “Der Mond steht an vierter Position auch zu den Himmelsrichtungen in Beziehung … Niemand wird daraus auf den ‘nocturnal aspect’ der Himmelsrichtungen schliessen.”76 As I have observed above (p. 193 f.), the fourth position may refer to all kinds of totality (like Viśve Devas, quarters of space, seasons, Anuṣṭubh77 etc.) as well as to nocturnal aspects (moon, stars, Varuṇa, death etc.), and the waters seem to belong to the latter. Sometimes these two aspects cause a differentiation into a fourth and a fifth position, sometimes the two are mixed up.
In this connection ŚB 14, 3, 2, 4–15 is interesting. Here some Yajuses from VS 39, 1–2 are quoted which very evidently reflect the system of the cosmic layers and their corresponding deities: earth—Agni, intermediate space—Vāyu, sky—Sūrya, regions—moon + stars, waters—Varuṇa, navel—purified one (= Prajāpati). It is obvious that after the cosmic triad several items (the worlds: regions, stars, waters; the deities: moon, Varuṇa, Prajāpati) have been mixed up, as is not unusual in Vedic texts and as has been observed before. The mentioned deities moon and Varuṇa have associations with waters as well as with the night.
The nocturnal aspects and the waters occur together in ŚB 8, 5, 2, 12, where (in the context of the Agnicayana) Agni and the earth, Vāyu and the air, Āditya and the sky, and (in fourth position) the moon, the stars, food (often connected with water) and the waters are mentioned. Since food and rain are sometimes connected as product and producer one might interpret the waters here as rain.78 However, the nocturnal aspect of this rain still requires an explanation. The association of moon and rain is not very frequent in the Vedic prose texts.79 If one assumes a heavenly ocean as the ultimate source of rain, the relation of this cosmic layer to the night still forms a problem. If the fourth item really should imply that this ocean is higher than the world of the sun, one may ask what are the implications of a classification like JB 1, 292, where lightning and waters in fifth position are mentioned after moon and stars in fourth position. Is the world of rain higher than the world of the moon?
The nocturnal aspect of the waters is also clear in BĀU 1, 5, 11–13, where earth and Agni, heaven and Āditya, and waters and moon are associated. The second loka and its deity were probably left out since Vāyu (the deity of the second world) is not a form of light.
The moon is the āyatana of the waters and the waters are the āyatana of the moon (TĀ 1, 22, 4), and the moon is the flower of the waters (TĀ 1, 22, 1). The stars and the waters are each other’s āyatana (TĀ 1, 22, 5). At night the day enters the waters (TS 6, 4, 2, 4).
2.4 Cosmic and Microcosmic Identifications
The fivefold classification is sometimes based on the identification of the five vital powers with their cosmic counterparts. The cosmic triad has as its microcosmic partners vāc (= fire on earth), prāṇa (= wind in the intermediate space) and cakṣus (= sun in the sky). Mostly śrotra (see n. 70) corresponds to the quarters of space (a “world,” not a deity) and manas to Prajāpati or the moon (a deity, not a world).
Sometimes the problems of the fourth and fifth position are not satisfactorily solved. AĀ 2, 1, 7 combines (in fourth position) the moon and the quarters of space and identifies them with śrotra though this identification is only partially correct. In fifth position Varuṇa and the waters are equated with manas, though the latter item should be identified with the moon or Prajāpati. So much is clear that Prajāpati, moon and Varuṇa belong together and that their association requires an explanation.
The occurrence of Prajāpati in these classifications may be based on his association with manas which is also found outside the classifications.80 This manas excellently agrees with the fourth position which is not only characterized by totality but also by indistinctness versus differentiation. This indistinctness (sometimes occurring together with being unlimited, endless and immaterial) is expressed with anirukta81 (literally “not spoken, not expressed”). Such a qualification suits manas (connected with silence and planning) and Prajāpati (the planning creator) and forms an opposition to vāc (loudly spoken, expressed) and the manifested universe.
The fact that manas is also equated with the moon82 may be an indication that the aspect of indistinction and of being unmanifested is also related to the darkness of the night and may illustrate the nocturnal aspect of the fourth83 or fifth item in such a classification. Night is also the time when one does not hear anything. Just like manas Prajāpati is also equated with the moon.84
The aspect of totality applies to Prajāpati (ŚB 1, 3, 5, 10; 4, 5, 7, 2; 7, 3, 1, 42; KB 6, 11, 12 and 25, 12, 2) who is also equated with all the gods (TB 3, 3, 7, 3; ŚB 13, 5, 3, 3). Similarly mánas is sárvam and all the prāṇas are based on mánas (ŚB 7, 5, 2, 6; 14, 3, 2, 3).
We may conclude that in these micro-macro-cosmic classifications the counterparts of manas belong to the sphere of totality, indistinctness and night. These counterparts (moon and Prajāpati) are gods. What are their corresponding worlds?
The moon, being itself a world of the Pitṛs in some texts and the abode of Yama in JB 1, 28, may be situated in the sky, especially the nocturnal sky, as well as in the waters. Varuṇa whose association with the waters will be discussed below, is also connected with the night (see below).
Prajāpati’s world is the fourth (ŚB 4, 6, 1, 4 and 11, 1, 2, 8). The nocturnal aspect of Prajāpati may be inferred, but is not very evident.85 His association with the waters seems to be restricted to the primeval waters from which he started his cosmogony.86 Further on we will revert to the problem of Prajāpati’s fourth or fifth position in the classifications and his link with the primeval and subterranean waters.
2.5 Varuṇa’s Waters and the Fourth World
Now it is remarkable that Varuṇa’s association with the waters and the ocean mostly does not concern heaven. In the classification of the quarters the West (the entrance to the nether world) is his quarter of space. Lüders (1951) assumed a heavenly ocean and was criticized by Kuiper (1972) in whose view Varuṇa’s ocean is subterranean and only at night is extended over the world as the night-sky; see also Bodewitz 1982 (this vol. ch. 4). Klaus (1986, 69) strictly follows Lüders and observes: “Kuipers Ansichten lassen sich aus unseren Quellen nicht belegen.” My attempt to adduce some support for Kuiper’s views from classifications (1982) in which “subterranean waters, totality and the nocturnal situation of the fourth position belong together” is rejected by him (1986, 71). The possible connection between subterranean and heavenly waters would only indicate spatial totality, since these waters enclose the universe. However, this sort of totality does not play a role in these classifications, in which the item added to a fixed series represents the totality of that series.87
Oberlies (1999, 18–31) follows Klaus in his criticism of Kuiper. His elaborate treatment of the topic “himmlische Wasser” (see his index s.v. “Wasser”), however, mainly deals with Avestan material for which hardly any concrete parallels in the Veda are adduced.
It is remarkable that in ṚV 1, 161, 14 four “worlds” are mentioned and that here already Varuṇa is associated with the waters which usually represent the fourth world. Here also Varuṇa occurs in fourth position, but the order is sky, earth, intermediate space and waters, and the deity of the sky is not the sun.
Varuṇa’s relation to the fourth world is also illustrated by the fact that in spite of his association with the third quarter of space (the West) he is called the fourth Lokapāla in the MBh, a text in which he is also called overlord of the waters (Hopkins 1915, 150). For Varuṇa’s fourth position see further p. 190 (JB 1, 334) and p. 192 (KB 20, 1, 5 ff.).
Varuṇa’s association with the waters is firmly established in Vedic literature.88 His connection with the night seems to be missing in the Ṛgveda Saṁhitā (apart from one or two debatable references), but is found in later texts.89
Now one may try to combine these data or one may negate any connection. The waters may be interpreted as the earthly ocean (as in some late, post-Vedic texts); as the primeval waters; as the subterranean waters; or as the (permanent) heavenly ocean (about which post-Vedic literature hardly gives information).
The primeval waters and the subterranean ocean are to some extent identical since the latter forms the continuation of the former (see Kuiper 1979, 27). In the non-cosmogonic contexts only the subterranean waters play a role, and it is also in this ocean that Varuṇa permanently resides in the epics. The assumption of a heavenly ocean in which Varuṇa permanently stays creates a problem which in my view cannot be solved by assuming a development in which Varuṇa and his waters were degraded to a nether world in post-Vedic literature. The mythological equation of the nether world and its waters with the nocturnal sky90 is much more convincing.
The association of Varuṇa with the night as well as with the waters was assumed by Geldner in his note on ṚV 2, 38, 8: “Sobald die Nacht kommt … darf er sich in sein eigenes Haus, in das Wasser zurückziehen.” The verse is admittedly obscure, but it is clear that Varuṇa enters the waters (yónim ápyam) and that this verse refers to sunset. Lüders (1951, 50), translating “… geht Varuṇa (am Abend) in das Wasserheim,” follows Geldner in this respect. However, he does not draw any conclusion on the nocturnal connection of Varuṇa with the waters. See also ṚV 8, 41, 2–3 on Varuṇa’s association with both the waters (in verse 2) and the night (in verse 3). According to KB 18, 6, 10 the setting sun enters the waters and becomes Varuṇa. In the MBh the moon is situated in Varuṇa’s world (Kuiper 1979, 86). Indeed these combined references to Varuṇa and the waters as well as the night still need not imply that these nocturnal waters are in the nocturnal sky, but the mentioned references to Varuṇa’s fourth position support the assumption of a nocturnal sky connected with waters and Varuṇa.
2.6 The Dhur Verses and the Cosmic Classification
In this section three passages from the JB and one from the ṢaḍvB on the Dhur verses will be treated. In these passages a sixfold classification plays a role in which the usual fivefold classification is extended with a sixth item which lies under instead of above the cosmic pentad. This means that the first item is subterranean. Now it is remarkable that in these classifications elements of the first item also play a role in the fifth or sixth (i.e. the normal fourth or fifth) item. As we will see, nocturnal aspects are concerned.
In the Dhur verses the five metres Gāyatrī, Triṣṭubh, Jagatī, Anuṣṭubh and Paṅkti are preceded by a so-called Retasyā verse. The five metres have an equation with the five prāṇas (vital powers, sometimes interpreted as senses). The latter are usually (and also here) correlated with five cosmic layers or worlds and their corresponding deities.
The introduction of a sixth item creates several problems, since this classification is basically fivefold. Moreover the numerical symbolism becomes disturbed, since every item shifts from its well-known first, second etc. position to the second, third etc. one. In this disorder sometimes the classification of the numbers prevails in such a way that the metre which usually comes first, second, third or fourth and now occupies the second, third, fourth or fifth position, obtains as counterpart in the “horizontal” equation with other fivefold series an item which belongs to the new (i.e. second, third, fourth or fifth) position; e.g. the Triṣṭubh, the second metre which is now in third position, is equated with cakṣus and the sun (instead of prāṇa and the wind).
The passages concerned are JB 1, 99–104; 1, 259–273; 1, 315–317 and ṢaḍvB 2, 1, 6–2, 2, 13.91 The six items may be presented in the following classification in which the series of the prāṇas includes two items which do not belong to the normal pentad and the series of the worlds corresponding to the six (or rather five) deities has food as the equivalent of waters. In the classificatory system the seasons (totality of time) sometimes substitute the regions (totality of space). Both are aspects of idaṁ sarvam.
1 (–) Retasyā
2 (1) Gāyatrī
3 (2) Triṣṭubh
4 (3) Jagatī
5 (4) Anuṣṭubh
6 (5) Paṅkti
This survey does not take into account some exceptions and deviations and is based on a combination of the data. The series of the metres of course is uniform.
What strikes most is the fact that Prajāpati as well as idaṁ sarvam (i.e. totality) occur in first (i.e. subterranean) and in fifth position. Moreover waters and the moon (the world and the deity normally associated with the fourth world) here incidentally are connected with the first (i.e. subterranean) item. Together these data may point to the identity of the subterranean waters and the nocturnal sky.
The vital powers (prāṇas) have some variations in the first and the sixth positions. The Retasyā is equated with manas in ṢaḍvB 2, 2, 8 and (implicitly) with seed in 2, 1, 3/5. JB 1, 99, 100, 103, and 315 identify Retasyā and seed, but 1, 269–270 and 1, 316 Retasyā and manas. Both seed and manas are outside the context of the Dhur verses often associated with the moon. Here they belong to the subterranean sphere.
The microcosmic equivalent of the Paṅkti is problematic. ṢaḍvB 2, 1, 29 does not mention a prāṇa, but refers to the seasons.92 The samāna and udāna of ṢaḍvB 2, 2, 13 (in sixth position) are the counterparts of prāṇa and apāna in 2, 1, 9 (in second position). Obviously this Brāhmaṇa has divided prāṇa (“breath”) into two sets of airs in order to obtain six prāṇas (“vital powers”). Just like ṢaḍvB 2, 1, 29 here JB 1, 102 and 1, 317 equate the Paṅkti with the seasons instead of with a vital power. JB 1, 269–270 leaves out the Paṅkti, whereby the sixfold structure of the Dhur-verses is lost. Moreover it reinterprets prāṇa and vāc as senses (smell and taste). It is only in JB 1, 99 that this Brāhmaṇa equates the Paṅkti with a microcosmic entity (be it not a vital power), namely ātman, here to be taken as the body or the trunk rather than as a concept of the soul.93
The deities mentioned in the survey are taken from the ṢaḍvB. The Jaiminīya passages leave them out with the exception of JB 1, 316–317, where the six cosmic powers are moon, wind, sun, quarters of space (i.e. a world rather than a deity), Prajāpati and seasons (a world rather than a deity). We miss here the deity Agni (fire). The first deity is called Candramas, Soma and Brahman (JB 1, 316). Moreover, here the deities correspond to the microcosmic powers rather than to the lokas of the cosmic stratification.
In the ṢaḍvB the worlds correspond to the deities and consequently Sūrya is equated with heaven, though the microcosmic power is śrotra (the equivalent of the quarters of space). One would expect heaven, Sūrya and cakṣus.
Instead of having Prajāpati in first and fifth position (as in ṢaḍvB) JB 1, 316 equates the Retasyā with manas and the moon (!), but 1, 317 keeps Prajāpati in fifth position as the equivalent of Anuṣṭubh and vāc. In sixth position JB 1, 317 only mentions the metre Paṅkti and the world seasons, i.e. it does not only leave out the microcosmic but also the cosmic power.
The worlds are not mentioned as a separate group by JB 1, 270 and 1, 315–317 though the waters (a world rather than a deity) occur among the series of the deities in first position (as the equivalent of the Retasyā) in 1, 270. In 1, 104 only the worlds 2–6 are found and the subterranean world connected with the Retasyā is missing.
Food as the “world” of the Retasyā is not only found in ṢaḍvB 2, 2, 4 but also in JB 1, 273 (outside the regular classification). ṢaḍvB 2, 1, 6 and 2, 1, 26 have idaṁ sarvam as Prajāpati’s world both in connection with the Retasyā (first position) and the Anuṣṭubh (fifth, originally fourth position).
The following conclusions can be drawn. The fourth world of Prajāpati, which as we have seen before represents totality and here is called idaṁ sarvam, also occurs below the earth94 in this sixfold classification. The fact that manas, a typical item in the fourth position is also found in first position, i.e. below the earth, is significant. The subterranean aspect of this first position is illustrated by JB 1, 270 which has the waters instead of idaṁ sarvam as the title of this world. These waters are elsewhere in classifications associated with the fourth world (see 2.3 above). All this convincingly points to an identification of the fourth world (moon, Prajāpati, totality, waters) with the nether world and to the identity of the subterranean waters with the nocturnal sky assumed by Kuiper.95 The cosmic triad of the day-time consists of three deities (Agni, Vāyu, Āditya) and three worlds (earth, intermediate world, sky/heaven). The fourth or fourth and fifth or even fourth to sixth items added to this triad consist of the deities Candramas/Soma, Varuṇa/Death and Prajāpati and the group of gods, the Viśve Devas. The corresponding “worlds” are the waters, the nocturnal sky (symbolized by the stars) and the quarters of space, respectively the seasons (the symbols of totality of space and time). Totality and night are the two aspects of the supratriadic deities and worlds, but these two are often combined and they overlap.
3 Synthesis. The World of Death
A synthesis of the results of the various classifications treated above may elucidate some unclear details. Moreover the ultimate aim of this study, the search for a localisation of yonder world outside the heavenly paradise, may profit from a combined approach.
In the classifications of the quarters of space the East is rather unproblematic. It is connected with heaven and the gods. Since the śrauta ritual is completely focused on the East, we may assume that to the Yajamānas this world is promised as the ultimate destination. This does not imply that the East also represents the Pitṛloka. Even a heavenly Pitṛloka seems to be different from the world of the gods96 and to be associated with the South-East.
The South and the region of death are often equated. In between the rather positive South-East and the more demonic South-West it seems to denote the general realm of the deceased. There are no indications that the South represents a world of light in heaven. It is rather connected with darkness and may stand for the nether world.97
Going to the nether world implies a downward movement. For Atharvavedic material see Bodewitz 1999c (this vol. ch. 11). Elsewhere (2002a; this vol. ch. 17) I will treat the aspects of the downward movement and of darkness in connection with the nether world. The Pitṛs are associated with all kinds of holes or pits in the earth (Bodewitz 1999b; this vol. ch. 12). However, this still does not prove that the South (the region of the deceased) is actually under the earth, though one may assume this connection in a hypothesis. ŚB 12, 8, 1, 18 states that “those who perform at the southern fire, go down to the world of the Fathers” (tr. Eggeling). The verb used here is anváva-i. This seems to confirm our assumption.
3.1 The South and the Fourth World
The South is not only associated with death and Pitṛs but also with the moon.98 The southern fire has the shape of a half-moon. This also shows the relation between the South and the moon.99 In the symbolism of the ritual one moves from the earth (the Gārhapatya) to heaven (the Āhavanīya) and then has the Dakṣiṇāgni on one’s right hand. In the classification of the quarters the order is East—South—West, but moving to heaven (the East) one has the South on one’s right, and in that second position the South is the moon as well as the world of the deceased.
The moon belongs to the sky, and consequently the South might also be situated in the sky. The moon, however, is only connected with the nocturnal sky. If one accepts the theory of the nocturnal sky being the nether world in a reversed position, the association of the moon with the South is not problematic. Both the South and the moon are characterized by darkness.
The association of the moon with the nether world may also be assumed in TĀ 1, 8, 4, where four kinds of death are mentioned in the following order: sun, wind, fire, moon.
The moon (representing the nocturnal sky or the night) belongs to the fourth or fifth world in the classification of the cosmic worlds (see 2.2 and 2.3). Other representatives of this fourth/fifth world are also incidentally connected with the South. JB 1, 41 states that the sacrificer who sits down to the South of the fires becomes Prajāpati. The South is totality (sarvam) according to GB 1, 5, 15, and totality is the characteristic of the fourth world, especially in connection with Prajāpati. The fourth priest, the Brahman, who is connected with several fourth items, is associated with the South.100
Smith (1994, 142 f.) calls the equation of the South, the region of death, with food and offspring “somewhat paradoxical” and refers to Das (1977, 15 f.), who states by way of explanation that the ancestors “have a direct interest in continuation of their lines and hence the welfare of the descendants.” I would prefer to draw attention to the equations of waters and food101 and of waters and seed.102 Therefore fertility and food are also associated with Varuṇa (a god connected with death like Yama) and the West, because the waters, the fourth item in cosmic classifications, belong to Varuṇa.103
3.2 Varuṇa, the West, the Waters and the Fourth World
The relation between Varuṇa (who is never associated with the South, perhaps with one exception; see n. 11) and the waters (see section 2.5) and between Prajāpati and the waters (see p. 194) is not entirely the same. Varuṇa’s waters are the waters of the nether world and at the same time the nocturnal sky. Prajāpati, in spite of his incidental equation with the moon, rather is the deity of totality and of the primeval waters (the situation before any differentiation took place). The combination of totality and waters is found in ŚB 6, 1, 3, 11.104 Varuṇa’s nether world and its waters represent a continuation of Prajāpati’s primeval world and the primeval waters. Varuṇa is associated with death (see n. 10 and p. 190), an association which is hardly found with Prajāpati.105 The aspects of fertility, semen and food belong to the moon (see Gonda 1965a, 40, 42, and 48; Bodewitz 1987, and cf. n. 103) with whom both Varuṇa and Prajāpati have connections.
The West is Varuṇa’s nether world; for other items representing the nether world and associated with the West, see p. 180 f. (i.a. referring to Soma, probably to be taken as the moon, the representative of night and death). Remarkably missing are the equations of the West with Yama, death and ancestors.106
3.3 The North and the Fourth World
The synthesis of the classifications of the quarters of space and of the cosmic classifications becomes even more evident in the association of the North (the fourth quarter of space after East, South and West) with Varuṇa107 whose own quarter normally is the West.
Here his connection with the fourth world in cosmic classifications evidently is the cause of this association. For this fourth position of Varuṇa in cosmic classifications see 2.5. Varuṇa is associated with the night and with the waters just like the moon. In the usual fourfold classifications (sometimes extended to a fivefold one, in case the aspect of totality is included) the moon represents the fourth world, since the moon just like fire and sun is a source of light. Varuṇa’s fourth position is to be seen in the sevenfold classifications (2.1), where the night is combined with death rather than with totality. It is remarkable that in some of these classifications (e.g. KB 20, 1, 5 ff.; see p. 192) the moon is completely missing and Varuṇa occupies the fourth position.
The North as an actual quarter of space is the only one which misses a terrestrian ocean and therefore Varuna’s association with the North looks strange at first sight. The reference to four oceans in AV 19, 27, 3 is likewise surprising. Probably the fourth ocean is the northern one, and this northern ocean may refer to Varuṇa’s ocean in the fourth world.108 The fourth cosmical position of Varuṇa is the only explanation of his association with a quarter of space which likewise comes fourth. In this connection it is interesting to note that Varuṇa is once called the fourth Lokapāla in the MBh (see p. 199).
In ŚB 11, 1, 6, 21–24 four quarters of space are associated with four “worlds.” The East and the West represent heaven and earth (just like the Āhavanīya- and the Gārhapatya-fires). The South is connected with the space between heaven and earth (just like the Dakṣiṇāgni fire in some passages, since this fire is situated between Gārhapatya and Āhavanīya). The North does not belong to this classification which is based on the sacrificial symbolism in which one moves from earth to heaven, from Gārhapatya to Āhavanīya. Here the North is associated with the waters, the usual fourth world (interpreted as the source of rain).
Varuṇa is not the only representative of the fourth cosmic world who is associated with the North. ṢaḍvB 3, 1, 29 connects the Nakṣatras with the North. Soma (if at least this god may be equated here with the moon) is another instance of the homology of the fourth world and the North.109
The North also plays a role in ŚB 1, 2, 4, 10–12, where the final defeat of the Asuras is described. Three of the four quarters of space are equated with the cosmic triad from which the Asuras are chased away. The gods are afraid that the Asuras may escape by way of the North. Now Agni encloses them from the North, the other gods from the other quarters of space (i.e. from the cosmic triad). With the worlds of the cosmic triad the gods put down (abhiní-dhā) the Asuras, and “from what fourth world there is beyond these (three) they did not rise again” (tr. Eggeling). The verb sám-hā used here indicates that the Asuras were sent to a place from which they could not rise again, i.e. to a nether world below the universe.
In this story the North is the possibility of escape, since it does not belong to the cosmic triad. This exit becomes blocked, but the fourth world (i.e. the North) also seems to be the final destination of the Asuras.110 In the epic they are living in the nether world with Varuṇa.
3.4 The Darker Side of the Pitṛs
In this article several indications of a nether world have been given. The South, the South-West and the West definitely represent a nether world (and the same may be observed about the nadir and probably the fourth/fifth world in cosmic classifications). The ancestors are mainly connected with the South, incidentally with the South-West and nowhere with the West. They have hardly any relation with the North, and some lucky deceased may hope to reach the heaven of the East and to live there with the gods. The South-East gives entrance to a Pitṛloka which is not situated in the nether world (see p. 178). The Pitṛs as a group, however, have the South as their world, and these Pitṛs may represent the majority in Vedic religion in spite of the focus on heaven or at least on a yonder world full of bliss and happiness.
It is remarkable that the Gṛhya Sūtras do not mention the term Pitṛloka and the term which denotes the world of the meritorious (sukṛtāṁ loka), with the exception of the Kauśika Sūtra. As Gonda (1980, 470) observes, these texts hardly contain any material on life after death. The information of the śrauta texts is rather onesided.
In the Gṛhya Sūtras we see the Pitṛs mentioned together with other representatives of the nether world.111 In her study on categorization of space in Hindu ritual Das (1977) especially deals with Gṛhya Sūtras. Here she associates “rites performed for ancestors and for protection from serpents” (p. 13) and observes that the Pitṛs are “clearly threatening beings” (p. 16). Rites for (or against) Pitṛs and serpents are both to be performed with the left hand, because the left is connected with “those supernatural beings, who have to be appeased, who inspire terror and have the potential of causing great harm if they are not regularly propitiated” (p. 14). Rites for ancestors and serpents are “rites of darkness” (ib.). Das (p. 20) associates the South as well as the West with the left.
Even some śrauta texts give information on the darker side of the Pitṛs; e.g. ŚB 9, 3, 4, 11 situates both the demons and the Pitṛs in the South. In ChU 2, 9, 8 the Pitṛs are connected with the end (nidhana) of the Sāman and with sunset (probably representing darkness or even the West). This part of the Sāman is also associated with Pitṛs, Gandharvas and serpents (ChU 2, 21, 1). The Pitṛs are not just the own, beloved ancestors. They were created as a group by Prajāpati (TB 2, 3, 8, 2). Between gods and Pitṛs enmity arose and the Pitṛs were malicious (see Lévi 1898, 99).
The paradise of Yama and the Pitṛs is a far cry from the house of asat where Yama punishes the sinners in TĀ 1, 8, 5–7. So even in the Veda Yama’s world is not exclusively a heavenly world of light and happiness. The Pitṛs are sometimes associated with sleep.112
Our conclusion therefore should be that more evidence of the darker side of yonder world and of its possible location in a nether world is available than assumed by some Vedists.