Categories: Hindu God and Goddess

Varuna:The Hindu God of Oceans, Water, and Justice

Varuna, a prominent deity in Hindu mythology, is a multifaceted god associated with the sky, oceans, water, justice, and truth. This article explores the various aspects of Varuna’s character, his role in Hindu scriptures, and his significance in different cultural contexts.

Etymology and Origins

Lord Varuna’s name is derived from the Sanskrit root “vr,” which means “to surround, to cover” or “to restrain, bind.” This reflects his role in maintaining cosmic order and binding individuals to moral and ethical principles. Some scholars have drawn connections between Varuna and the Greek god Ouranos, based on etymological similarities, although this theory is debated.

Iconography

Lord Varuna

Lord Varuna is commonly depicted riding a chariot drawn by seven swans, clutching a lotus, noose, conch, and gem-filled vessel, often sheltered by an umbrella. Yet, in some instances, he takes the form of a fair-skinned man donned in golden armor, riding a sea creature called Makara, and brandishing a snake as a noose. Some temples portray him riding a crocodile, while others show Varuna seated alongside his wife, Varuni, on a diamond throne, surrounded by gods and goddesses representing various water bodies. These diverse depictions capture the multifaceted nature of Lord Varuna’s imagery in Hindu mythology.

Family Tree

Lord Varuna, thought to be the son of Sage Kashyapa and born from the divine mother Aditi, is also known as Aditya. Described in the Vedas as possessing a thousand watchful eyes to oversee the entire world, he had eight sons, including Sushena, Vandi, and Vasishtha, along with a daughter named Varuni. This rich lineage and Varuna’s divine attributes hold a significant place in Hindu mythology, showcasing his importance in ancient beliefs and narratives.

Varuna in Vedas

In the oldest layer of the Rigveda, Lord Varuna is depicted as the guardian of moral law, punishing those who sin without remorse while forgiving those who express remorse. He is revered in several Rigvedic hymns and is closely associated with water, rivers, and oceans. Varuna is also regarded as the god of the sky, further emphasizing his multifaceted nature.

Varuna and Mitra

Varuna is often paired with the god Mitra, and together they govern societal affairs, including oaths and agreements. In the Rigveda, they are classified as both Asuras and Devas, with Varuna later transitioning to a Deva after the restructuring of the cosmos by Indra.

Varuna in Upanishads

The Taittiriya Upanishad features Lord Varuna, addressed as Varuni, explaining the concept of Brahman to the sage Bhrigu. This dialogue leads to the profound definition of Brahman as the source of all beings, their sustainer, and their ultimate destination after death.

Varuna in Ramayana

Lord Varuna plays a significant role in the Hindu epic Ramayana (Valmiki Ramayana) when Lord Rama seeks his assistance to cross the ocean to rescue his abducted wife, Sita. After initial prayers go unanswered, Rama, out of desperation, threatens to dry up the seas with his divine weapons. Varuna eventually emerges and advises Rama to embrace peace and love, promising not to hinder his mission.

Festivals Celebrating Varuna

Cheti Chand: Celebrated by Sindhi Hindus, this festival marks the arrival of spring and the mythical birth of Uderolal, who later became Jhulelal, the savior of Sindhi Hindus. It is a celebration of religious freedom and cultural heritage.

Chalio or Chaliho Sahib: A forty-day-long festival observed by Sindhi Hindus to express gratitude to Jhulelal for protecting their faith. It is a time of thanksgiving to Varuna Deva for listening to their prayers.

Narali Poornima: Observed by Hindu fishing communities in Maharashtra, India, this ceremonial day, celebrated during the full moon of the Hindu month of Shravan, involves offerings to Lord Varuna, the god of ocean and waters, to seek his blessings and protection.

Varuna Gayatri Mantra

Aum Jalbimbaye Vidmahe
Nila Purushaye Dhimahi
Tanno Varunah Prachodayat

Meaning: We meditate upon the one resembling the hue of water, the blue-skinned deity. May Lord Varuna, the god associated with the cosmic waters and the celestial ocean, inspire and guide us in our contemplative journey.

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Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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