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In Hinduism, the Vasus are attendant deities of Indra, and later Vishnu. The Ashta Vasus are described in the Ramayana as the children of Kasyapa and Aditi and in the Mahabharata as the sons of Manu or Brahma Prajapati. They are eight elemental gods (called "Aa-vasu", 'Eight Vasus') representing aspects of nature (The Five Elements - Pancha Bhoothas) and also representing cosmic natural phenomenon (The Sun, The Moon and The Stars). The name Vasu means 'Brilliance' or 'Wealth Givers'. They are eight among the Thirty-three gods.

Eight Vasus

There are varying lists of the eight Vasus in different texts, sometimes only because particular deities have varying names. The following are names and meanings according to the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and according to the Mahabharata as normally equated:

Brihadaranyaka Mahabharata
Name Meaning Name Meaning
Prithvi Muladhara Mandala.svg "earth" Dhar? "Earth"
Agni Manipura Mandala.svg "hot fire" Anala (also called Agni or Pavaka) "Fire"
V?yu Anahata Mandala.svg "wind" Anila "Wind"
Varuna Svadhishthana "water" ?pa "Water"
?ditya "eternal", a very common name for the sun Surya Praty?sha "Sun"
Dyaus Vishuddha Mandala.svg "sky" Prabh?sa "Sky or Ether"
Chandramas Ajna Mandala.svg "moon" Soma "Moon"
Nakstrani Sahasrara Mandala.svg "stars" Dhruva "Motionless", the name of the Polestar

Though the Shatapatha Brahmana uses the Brhad-Aranyaka names, most later texts follow the Mahabharata names with the exception that ?pa 'water' usually appears in place of Aha. The Vishnu Purana equates Prabh?sa with the lights of the 27 or 28 Nakshetra (Constellations/Lunar Mansions) and Dhruva with Akash Tatwa, that is "space", Dhruva seemingly taking over Aha's role when Aha is replaced by ?pa.

Ramayana and Mahabharata

The wife of one of the Vasus is tempted to steal the wish-bearing cow

In the Ramayana the Vasu is child of the Soorpanaka. The Mahabharata relates how the Vasus, led by "Prithu" (presumably here a male form of Prithvi), were enjoying themselves in the forest, when the wife of Prabhasa spotted an excellent cow and persuaded her husband Prabhasa to steal it, which Prabhasa did with the agreement and aid of Prithu and his other brothers. Unfortunately for the Vasus, the cow was owned by the sage Vashishta who learned through his ascetic powers that the Vasus had stolen it and immediately cursed them to be born on earth as mortals. Vashishta responded to pleading by the Vasus by promising that seven of them would be free of earthly life within a year of being born and that only Prabhasa would pay the full penalty. The Vasus then requested the river-goddess Ganga to be their mother. Ganga incarnated and became the wife of King Shantanu on condition that he never gainsaid her in any way. As seven children were born, one after the other, Ganga drowned them in her own waters, freeing them from their punishment and the king made no opposition. Only when the eighth was born did the king finally oppose his wife, who therefore left him. So the eighth son, Prabhasa incarnated, remained alive, imprisoned in mortal form, and later became known in his mortal incarnation as Bhishma.

A later section of the Mahabharata gives an alternate version in which each of the Vasus gives a portion of himself to create a ninth being and so all eight are later drowned leaving only this ninth composite as an incarnation of parts of all the Vasus to live out a very long mortal life as Bhishma.[]

Other uses

Vasu is also the name of the eighth chakra (group) of Melakarta ragas in Carnatic music. The names of chakras are based on the numbers associated with each name. In this case, there are 8 Vasus and hence the eighth chakra is Vasu.[1][2]

See also


  1. ^ South Indian Music Book III, by Prof. P Sambamoorthy, Published 1973, The Indian Music Publishing House
  2. ^ Ragas in Carnatic music by Dr. S. Bhagyalekshmy, Pub. 1990, CBH Publications

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