‘Mr One Thousand’ in Rig Veda and Tamil Literature (Post No.10,179)


Post No. 10,179

Date uploaded in London – 5 OCTOBER  2021         

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In Tamil Nadu you may find men named ‘ Mr One Thousand’ (Kan Ayiram in Tamil). But there is an awkward story behind this name in later Puranas and even in Mahabharata. I argue in this article that it was a false and funny story and it was developed later by the Pauranikas/Upanyasakas, i.e. people who delivered discourses. It was the style they followed even in explaining occurrences of solar and lunar eclipses. Hindus calculated the eclipses precisely and yet they kept on saying ‘the snake dragon devouring the moon or sun’. Even Kalidas and Sangam Tamil poets repeated this 2000 years ago. This shows that all scientific things were simplified in the way of popular and funny stories.

Rig Veda says very clearly that a solar eclipse finished before Atri finished reciting his verse/hymn. His disciples praised him for this feat. They did not know that Rishi Atri was an astronomer. No total eclipse can lost more than seven minutes. That too is very rare.

In the Mahabharata also, Krishna knew the day of solar eclipse. Jayadratha put down his bow and arrow thinking that the sun has already set, and he could take rest now. But Krishna asked Arjuna to shoot him down when the sun was out after the eclipse.


Here is a funny story about Indra.

According to the Mahabharata, Indra seduced or tried to seduce Ahalya, wife of Gautama Rishi. And the sage’s curse impressed upon him a thousand marks resembling the female organ, so he was called Sa-yoni; but these marks were afterwards changed to eyes and hence he is called Netra Yoni and Sahasraksha, the thousand eyed (Yoni is female organ). But there is no support for this story in the  Rig Veda, the oldest book in the world .

Rig Veda called Agni, Varuna and Indra 1000 eyed. The meaning was they are all ‘omni scient’. They know everything and they could see everything. Even if human beings did something secretly, they would know.

But Tamils also believed the story of Indra with Thousand Eyes. We have a proof in Tamil Hymn Tevaram. Tiru Jnana Sambandar who lived 1400 years ago during the reign of Mahendra Pallava and Pandyan Nedumaran composed a poem in the village Tirukkannanar Temple near Vaitheeswaran koil in Tamil Nadu. Sambandar himself refers to 1000 eyes of Indra. After Indra’s prayer Lord Shiva changed his 1000 Yoni signs into 1000 eyes.

In Tiruvarur area there is another Kannayiranathar temple in Tirukkaravasal where Siva is said to have appeared with 1000 eyes before Brahma and gave him back his power of creation. Brahma who oversees Creation in Hinduism briefly lost it due to his arrogance.


In the Rig Veda tenth Mandala 10-79-5 Agni is said to have 1000 eyes.

“This man who quickly gives him food, who offers his gift of oil and butter and supports him

Him with his 1000 eyes he closely looks on; thou showest him thy face from all sides, Agni”.

Moreover, we should not take the number 1000 literally. In 10-73-3 , Indra is said to have 1000 wolves or hyenas in his mouth.

“Thousand hyenas in thy mouth thou holdest, O Indra , mayst thou turn the Asvins hither”.

In 8-45-26

Indra is said to have 1000 arms.

In battle of a thousand arms Indra drank Kadru’s soma juice;

There he displayed his manly might.

In another hymn Varuna is said to have 1000 eyes.

In the most famous

Purushasukta hymn RV.10-90-1

“A thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet;

On every side pervading earth He fills a space ten fingers wide”.

All these hymns show that 1000 means many or several or a lot of.

In Indra’s story also, I guess that he was given the tattoos on his body to show that he is in the register of sex offenders. Indian literature gives details about giving tattoos to criminals. In all the stories of the olden days they say ‘ the person was taken on a donkey after impressing his body with black dots and red dots’. This shows that such a tattooing custom was prevalent in the olden days. Indra might have got such tattoos after the Ahalya incident. At one stage it was removed after Indra apologising publicly in temples.

tags- Indra, thousand eyes, Signs, Rig Veda

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