Written by London Swaminathan 


Date: 2 DECEMBER 2017 


Time uploaded in London-  20-45



Post No. 4453

Pictures shown here are taken from various sources such as Facebook friends, Books, Google and newspapers; thanks.


The Rig Vedic hymn 1-164 is a great hymn. Probably that is the longest hymn in the oldest book in the world with 52 mantras. It is like an encyclopaedia touching various subjects. It is a riddle because the poet Dirgatamas has used lot of numbers which can be interpreted in many ways. In fact Wilson, Max Muller, Ludwig, Hillebrandt, Griffith, Grasmann and many imitation western Sayanas gave their own interpretations. Even our own Sayana was struggling with the meaning of the mantras. The story of Dirgatamas itself is interesting. He was a blind poet like Homer who lived 100 years. His name meant Long Darkness.


First let me give you a beautiful comment on the Hymn RV 1-164 by Umapada Sen in the introduction of his book titled ‘The Rig Vedic Era’ (Calcutta, 1974):–

The Veda is an Indian mass product of a highly advanced civilised society based on class co-operation. It flowered spontaneously, breathing in Indian atmosphere, unassailed by extraneous influences for several centuries, till it was stifled by abrupt and strange appearance of liturgical codes of completely different character.

The clamour for ambiguity or inefficient articulation of the Vedic hymns by the protagonists need not be deplored. The critics should do justice to themselves in case they just take the pains to go through the hymns addressed to the Visvedevas or only the Hymn RV 1-164 and concentrate to find out the meaning of their own accord. Invariably it will dawn that the hymns are ovations addressed to all the luminaries, the then gods to the Rig Vedic singers. The sun, moon, nakshatras (stars), Sapta Rishis (Ursa Major), Pole star (Dhruva) and others being mentioned and their functions, inter related with astral phenomena, minutely described in a riddle type song sung by a poet soliciting a solution.


The humble effort in solving the quiz has mainly been confined in rationally arranging the translation of Indologists when necessary and nothing further. Only the respective solutions, e.g. where a luminary is seen to revolve in a chariot with no wheels the axle only spinning without linear motion;  seven luminaries bearing seven distinct names journeying in a chariot but with seven wheels following the sun’s track closely; the variant sun Vishnu, never making a journey in a chariot, encompassing the entire expanse only with three strides and relate to the pole star so on, have been offered.

Logical deductions are palpably conspicuous and do not depend on superfluous elucidation or interpretations of the verses in greater details. It is apparent that the above mentioned allusions respectively relate to the pole star, the Sapta Rishis (Ursa Major), seven planets, Vishnu’s sun (and not ordinary sun’s) three typical positions in the ecliptic, now known as the cardinal points, where through Vishnu’s annual revolution is completed. It would have been sheer folly if any other explanation was suggested. Nowhere, any farfetched idea has been construed or imported, nor any artificial rendering was adopted to spin a yarn or obliterate the real purport of the verse to suit the present deductions.”


This verse is famous for a few other statements and quoted very frequently for those statements:



(1).Truth is one; scholars call it with different names!

“They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutman.

To what is One sages give many a title; they call it Agni, Yama, Matariswan”-RV 1-164-46


(2).Speech has Four Divisions!

“Speech has been measured out in four divisions, the Brahmins who have understanding know them

Three kept in close concealment cause no motion; of speech, men speak only the fourth division.”—1-164-45


Four divisions of speech are

Four Types

1.Paraa, 2.Pasyantii, 3.Madhyamaa, 4.Vaikharii

Chathvaari vaak parimitaa padaani taani vidurbrahmanaa ye maniishinah

Rik Veda 1-164-45

Saayanaa in his commentary mentioned that the four types mentioned by the seers are Paraa, Pasyantii, Madhyamaa and Vaikharii.


(3).Adam and Eve Story from the Rig Veda!

“Two birds with fair wings, knit with bonds of friendship, in the same sheltering tree have found a refuge.

One of the twain eats the sweet Fig tree’s fruitage; the other eating not regadeth only” 1-164-20

Kanchi Paramacharya has rightly pointed out that this gave birth to the Story of Adama and Eve and Adam eating the forbidden fruit.

Adam= ADma=Atma

Eve= Jeev (Jeevatma)

Sayana says that the two birds are the vital and the Supreme spirit, dwelling in one body. The vital spirit enjoys the fruit or rewards of actions while the Supreme Spirit is merely a passive spectator.


(4).Number Symbolism

“Seven to the one-wheeled chariot yoke the Courser;bearing seven names the single Courser draw it.

Three-naved the wheel is, sound and undecaying, whereon are still resting alhese worlds of being.”- 1-164-2


“The seven who on the seven wheeled car are mounted to have horses, seven in tale, who draw them onward.

Seven sisters utter songs of praise together, in whom the names of the seven cows are treasured.”- 1-164-3

Seven Sisters seal is found in the Indus valley civilisation as well.

The Seven: according to Sayana, the seven solar rays, or seven divisions of the year.

Seven sisters: Probably the seven celestial rivers, which as emblems of fertility may bear the name of cows.


Dirgatamas is playing with numbers! he used numbers 1 to 10 to denote various things. It gives scope for new interpretations touching from Astronomy to Zoology.

Tamil mystic poets Tirumular, tirumazisai Alvar and Siva vakkiyar followed this number symbolism in their poetry, but 2000 years after Dirgatamas.


(5). Vedic Metres

Seven Vedic Metres including Gayatri are mentioned by the poet.

(6) The Path of Knowledge

Unknowing, I ask of those  who know – the sages

as one ignorant for the sakeof knowledge;

who is that ONE in the form of the Unborn

that has supported these six spheres of the world? 1-164-6


(7). What is the use of Veda?

What will he do with the hymn of the Veda

who does not know its theme—the Eterna

in the supreme region, in which the Devas dwell?

But those who have come to know That are perfect. – 1-164-39


(8).Words of Ambiguity

Boneless one, Unborn image, Suprna, Five-footed, the single, Triplet, the buffalo, Garutman, the Sadhyas, Sraswati etc.  are interpreted differently.

Dirgatamas was one of the latest poets of the Rig Vedic period. Rig Veda covers a time span of at least 500 years. If we cant even understand Dirgatamas, how are we going to understand more ancient poets?


As Umapada Sen says one must read the entire hymn and come to one’s own conclusion. Don’t depend upon Western Sayanas’ interpretations. They were not Hindus and moreover they did not live the life of Indians. Unless one lives in the culture, one cannot understand the full meaning, thrust, import and significance of the poem or hymn.


(I will give the story of Dirgatamas separately)




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