Water and Earth in the Vedas

The Bodhi Tree.jpg

Water / Ap

“The Waters are the foundation of all this universe.”  — SB XIV, 3, 2, 13

Water, known as ap in Sanskrit, is said to be of the same age of the Universe itself, having been contained in an egg from which everything else emanated. The world is spoken of as having been “originally water without light” (Salilam apraketam; Rig Veda X.29.3). Therefore, water is considered Divine by the Vedas, and it was thought to bring peace, happiness, wealth, long-life and good health.

Rig Veda attributes several Gods to water. Apas, who is addressed in four Suktas, is the God of waters. Indra, Varun, Parjanya are also in directly or indirectly related to water in the texts. Parjanya, who’s name means “the clouds causing the downpour of rains”, represents water in the form of rain, which sustains life on earth. Parjanya is therefore deified in the Rig Veda.

Because water is said to be the primeval element, it is still a common practice in everyday life in India to immerse idols (murtis) and utensils in the sacred rivers, and to anoint oneself with water. This is also why many people in India are returned to the waters when they pass on. All of this symbolizes purification through the return to the origins.

Earth / Prthivi

The Vedic attitude toward the Earth springs from mankind’s primordial experience of being on the one hand a guest, and on the other an offspring, of the Earth. Indeed she occupies a special place among the Gods, having been praised as as Divine Mother. Worship addressed to the Earth was not adoration of an idol or creature as an absolute. Rather, worship involved the veneration of the highest value in the hierarchy of existence, for “undoubtedly this earth is the firstborn of being.”

To the Vedas, the Earth was an object of worship and not of exploitation. She was a subject of awe and not of curiosity, and investigation of the earth was thought to be of the same nature as personal introspection. Naturally, this means that to harm the earth was considered a masochistic vice. Perhaps this is why the Vedas were some of the very first environmentalists, having wisely stated early on:

  1. "Do not cut trees because they remove pollution." (Rig Veda 6:48:17)

  2. "Do not disturb the sky and do not pollute the atmosphere. (Yajur Veda 5:43)

  3. "Don't destroy forests with tigers and don't make forests devoid of tigers. Forests can't be saved without tigers and tigers can't live without forests because forests protect tigers and tigers protect forests." (Virat Parrva 5:45-46).

  4. "One should protect the habitation." (Rig Veda Samhita VI:71:3)

The famous Hymn to the Earth is considered to be one of the most beautiful hymns of the Vedas. The Earth is here called bhumi rather than prthivi. The hymn depicts the universal mother, dispenser of every sort of good.

Hymn to the Earth

Bhumi Sukta



1. High Truth, unyielding Order, Consecration,

Ardor and Prayer and Holy Ritual

uphold the Earth; may she, the ruling Mistress

of what has been and what will come to be,

for us spread wide a limitless domain.

2. Untrammeled in the midst of men, the Earth,

adorned with heights and gentle slopes and plains,

bears plants and herbs of various healing powers.

May she spread wide for us, afford us joy!

3. On whom are ocean, river, and all waters,

on whom have sprung up food and ploughman’s crops,

on whom moves all that breathes and stirs abroad--

Earth, may she grant to us the long first draught!

4. To Earth belong the four directions of space.

On her grows food; on her the ploughman toils.

She carries likewise all that breathes and stirs.

Earth, may she grant us cattle and food in plenty!


5. On whom the men of olden days roamed far,

on whom the conquering Gods smote the demons,

the home of cattle, horses, and of birds,

may Earth vouchsafe to us good fortune and glory!

6. Bearer of all things, hoard of treasures rare,

sustaining mother, Earth the golden-breasted

who bears the Sacred Universal Fire,

whose spouse is Indra--may she grant us wealth!

7. Limitless Earth, whom the Gods, never sleeping,

protect forever with unflagging care,

may she exude for us the well-loved honey,

shed upon us her splendor copiously!

8. Earth, who of yore was Water in the oceans,

discerned by the Sages’ secret powers,

whose immortal heart, enwrapped in Truth,

abides aloft in the highest firmament,

may she procure for us splendor and power,

according to her highest royal state!

9. On whom the flowing Waters, ever the same,

course without cease or failure night and day,

may she yield milk, this Earth of many streams,

and shed on us her splendor copiously!

10. May Earth, whose measurements the Ashvins marked,

over whose breadth the foot of Visnu strode,

whom Indra, Lord of power, freed from foes,

stream milk for me, as a mother for her son!

11. Your hills, O Earth, your snow-clad mountain peaks,

your forests, may they show us kindliness!

Brown, black, red, multifarious in hue

and solid is this vast Earth, guarded by Indra.

Invincible, unconquered, and unharmed,

I have on her established my abode.

12. Impart to us those vitalizing forces that come,

O Earth, from deep within your body,

your central point, your navel; purify us wholly.

The Earth is mother; I am son of Earth.

The Rain-giver is my father; may he shower on us blessings!

13. The Earth on which they circumscribe the altar,

on which a band of workmen prepare the oblation,

on which the tall bright sacrificial posts

are fixed before the start of the oblation--

may Earth, herself increasing, grant us increase!

14. That man, O Earth, who wills us harm, who fights us,

who by his thoughts or deadly arms opposes,


deliver him to us, forestalling action.

15. All creatures, born from you, move round upon you.

You carry all that has two legs, three, or four.

To you, O Earth, belong the five human races,

those mortals upon whom the rising sun

sheds the immortal splendor of his rays.

16. May the creatures of earth, united together,

let flow for me the honey of speech!

Grant to me this boon, O Earth.

17. Mother of plants and begetter of all things,

firm far-flung Earth, sushined by Heavenly Law,

kindly and pleasant is she. May we ever

dwell on her bosom, passing to and fro!

18. As a vast abode, Earth, you have become great.

Great is your movement, great your trembling, your quaking.

The Lord all-powerful ceaselessly protects you.

O Earth, grant us to shine like burnished gold,

and let no enemy ever wish us ill!

19. Agni resides on earth, within the plants.

The Waters contain Agni; in the stones is he.

Agni abides deep in the hearts of Men.

In cattle and in horses there are Agnis.

20. Agni blazes and flashes from the height of heaven.

To the God Agni belong all airy spaces,

Agni it is whom mortal men enkindle,

conveyer of offerings, lover of the clarified butter.

21. May she who is clothed with Fire, whose knees

are blackened, grant me sharpness of wit

and furnish me with splendor!

22. May Earth on which men offer to the Gods

the sacrifice and decorous oblations,

where dwells the human race on nourishment

proper to the requirements of its nature--

may this great Earth assure us life and breath,

permitting us to come to ripe old age.

23. Instill in me abundantly that fragrance,

O Mother Earth, which emanates from you

and from your plants and waters, that sweet perfume

that all celestial beings are wont to emit,

and let no enemy ever wish us ill!

24. Your fragrance which has entered into the lotus,

wherewith the immortal Gods at the Sun-daughter’s wedding

were redolent, O Earth, in times primeval--


instill in me abundantly that fragrance,

and let no enemy ever wish us ill!

25. Your fragrance which adheres to human beings,

the good cheer and the charm of women and men,

that which is found in horses and in warriors,

that which is in wild beasts and in the elephant,

the radiance that shines about a maiden--

O Earth, steep us, too, deeply in that fragrance,

and let no enemy ever wish us ill!

26. Earth is composed of rock, of stone, of dust;

Earth is compactly held, consolidated.

I venerate this mighty Earth, the golden-breasted!

27. Her upon whom the trees, lords of the forest,

stand firm, unshakable, in every place,

this long-enduring Earth we now invoke,

the giver of all manner of delights.

28. Whether we stand upright or sit,

whether we stay quite still or walk,

whether we walk with right foot or left,

never may we stumble upon Earth!

29. O purifying Earth, I you invoke!

O patient Earth, by Sacred Word enhanced,

bearer of nourishment and strength, of food and ghee--

O Earth, we would approach you with due praise!

30. Pure may the Waters flow over our bodies!

That which defiles--I fling it upon our foes!

I cleanse myself, O Earth, as with a filter.

31. Your regions, Earth, to eastward and to northward,

southward and westward, may they receive me kindly,

whenever on their paths I travel. Never,

when standing on your surface, may I totter!

32. Do not thrust us aside from in front or behind,

from above or below! Be gracious, O Earth.

Let us not encounter robbers on our path.

Restrain the deadly weapon!

33. As wide a vista of you as my eye

may scan, O Earth, with the kindly help of Sun,

so widely may my sight be never dimmed

in all the long parade of years to come!

34. Whether, when I repose on you, O Earth,

I turn upon my right side or my left,

or whether, extended flat upon my back,

I meet your pressure from head to foot,


be gentle, Earth! You are the couch of all!

35. Whatever I dig up of you, O Earth,

may you of that have quick replenishment!

O purifying One, may my thrust never

reach right unto your vital points, your heart!

36. Your circling seasons, nights succeeding days,

your summer, O Earth, your splashing rains, our autumn,

your winter and frosty season yielding to spring--

may each and all produce for us their milk!

37. This cleansing Earth, who trembles before the Serpent,

who guards the fires that dwell within the waters,

who castigates the god-insulting demons,

has chosen for her mate Indra, not Vrtra,

surrendering herself to the powerful one, the potent.

38. On her are erected the platform and the sheds of oblation;

on her is reared the sacrificial post.

On her the brahmins, knowers of the rites,

recite their hymns, intone their melodies.

On her the priests set forth the sacrifice,

that Indra may drink Soma.

39. On her those sages of old, the Seven Seers

who fashioned these worlds, performing the sacrifice

by dint of holy rite and creative Fervor,

sang hymns and lo! the cows came to birth!

40. May Earth afford us all that copious wealth

for which we long! May Bhaga play his part

and Indra go before to show the way!

41. May Earth, the stage where mortals sing and play

with varied shouts and noises, which resounds

with cries of war or beatings of the drum,

drive far my foemen and rid me of all rivals!

42. Earth is the source of food, of rice and barley;

from her derive the five tribes of men.

To rain-steeped Earth, the Rain-giver’s wife, be homage!

43. Her castles are built by the Gods, her plains

the arena in which men wage war. The matrix

of all things is Earth. May the Lord of life

dispose for our enjoyment all her regions!

44. May the Goddess Earth, bearer of many a treasure

and of wealth stored up in diverse hidden places,

the generous sharer of riches, impart to us,

in addition to gold and gems, a special portion of her favor!

45. May Earth who bears mankind, each different grouping


maintaining its own customs and its speech,

yield up for me a thousand streams of treasure,

like a placid cow that never resists the hand.

46. The snake and the scorpion which viciously bite,

which, chilled by winter, lie slothfully hidden,

the wriggling worm, all that stirs in the rains--

may it, creeping, not creep on us! Instead,

may you grant us the blessing of all that is wholesome!

47. From your numberless tracks by which mankind may travel,

your roads on which move both chariots and wagons

your paths which are used by the good and the bad,

may we choose a way free from foes and robbers!

May you grant us the blessing of all that is wholesome!

48. She carries in her lap the foolish and also the wise.

She bears the death of the wicked as well as the good.

She lives in friendly collaboration with the boar,

offering herself as sanctuary to the wild pig.

49. The creatures of your forests, dwellers in woods,

lions, tigers, man-eaters that prowl about,

hyena and wolf, misfortune stalking around,

demons both male and female, chase them far!

50. All evil spirits, male and female alike,

drive far from us, O Earth, the ones that grab

and the ones that devour, all vampires and all demons!

Drive each and every one to distant realms!

51. Over the earth the winged bipeds fly,

swans and falcons, eagles, birds of all kinds.

On her the wind comes rushing, Matarishvan,

raising the dust, causing the trees to tremble

and dragging in his victory train the Fire.

52. May she in whom the bright and also the dark,

the day and the night, associate, though separate,

the far-flung Earth, ofttimes by rain made fertile,

graciously settle each one in his well-loved abode!

53. Heaven and Earth and the space in between

have set me in a wide expanse!

Fire, the Sun, the Waters, the Gods,

have joined to give me inspiration.

54. Behold me now, victorious!

My name is the highest in all the earth.

Ruling in all regions, I subdue all! I conquer!

55. When at the Gods’ command, O Goddess,

you unfurled yourself, revealing your grandeur,


then you were imbued with beauty and charm.

You shaped and fashioned the world’s four regions.

56. In village or forest, in all the places

where man meets man, in market or forum,

may we always say that which is pleasing to you!

57. Just as a horse scatters dust, so Earth,

when she came into being, scattered the peoples--

Earth, gracious leader and protectress of the world,

who holds in firm grasp both trees and plants.

58. The words that I speak are sweet as honey!

My glances meet with fair glances in return.

Vehement am I, swift and impetuous!

Those who gnash their teeth I utterly vanquish!

59. Peaceful and fragrant, gracious to the touch,

may Earth, swollen with milk, her breasts overflowing,

grant me her blessing together with her milk!

60. The Maker of the world sought her with oblations

when she was shrouded in the depth of the ocean.

A vessel of gladness, long cherished in secret,

the earth was revealed to mankind for their joy.

61. Primeval Mother, disperser of Men,

you, far-flung Earth, fulfill all our desires.

Whatever you lack, may the Lord of creatures,

the First-born of Right, supply to you fully!

62. May your dwellings, O Earth, free from sickness and wasting,

flourish for us! Through a long life, watchful,

may we always offer to you our tribute!

63. O Earth, O Mother, dispose my lot

in gracious fashion that I be at ease.


Even for Hindus today the Earth is sacred as the very manifestation of the Divine Mother. She is Bhumi Devi, the Earth Goddess. One of the reasons that Hindus honor cows is that the cow represents the energies and qualities of the Earth, selfless caring, sharing and the providing of nourishment to all.


In the Vedas there was much contemplation on the idea that, while humans are from the Earth and part of the Earth, it seems that we are not only of the Earth, not just Earthly beings.



  • International Journal of Social Science & Interdisciplinary Research, Vol.1 Issue 8, August 2012, ISSN 2277 3630

  • Panikkar, Raimundo; Vedic Experience: An Anthology of Hinduism’s Sacred and Revealed Scriptures