Eastern Spirituality

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Ushas (uṣas), Sanskrit for "dawn", is a Vedic deity, and consequently a Hindu deity as well.

Sanskrit uṣas is an s-stem, i.e. the genitive case is uṣásas. It is from PIE *h₂ausos-, cognate to Greek Eos and Latin Aurora.

Ushas is an exalted goddess in the Rig Veda but less prominent in post-Rigvedic texts. She is often spoken of in the plural, "the Dawns." She is portrayed as warding off evil spirits of the night, and as a beautifully adorned young woman riding in a golden chariot on her path across the sky. Due to her color she is often identified with the reddish cows, and both are released by Indra from the Vala cave at the beginning of time.

Twenty of the 1,028 hymns of the Rig Veda are dedicated to the Dawn: seven in Book 7, two in each of Books 4, 5, and 6, and six and one in the later Books 1 and 10 respectively. In RV 6.64.1-2 (trans. Griffith), Ushas is invoked as follows:

  • The radiant Dawns have risen up for glory, in their white splendour like the waves of waters.
  • She maketh paths all easy, fair to travel, and, rich, hath shown herself benign and friendly.
  • We see that thou art good: far shines thy lustre; thy beams, thy splendours have flown up to heaven.
  • Decking thyself, thou makest bare thy bosom, shining in majesty, thou Goddess Morning.

In the "family books" of the Rig Veda (e.g. RV 6.64.5), Ushas is the divine daughter—a divó duhitâ —of Dyaus Pita ("Sky Father"). This is taken literally in the traditional genealogies of Hindu mythology.

In one recent Hindu interpretation, Sri Aurobindo in his Secret of the Veda, described Ushas as "the medium of the awakening, the activity and the growth of the other gods; she is the first condition of the Vedic realisation. By her increasing illumination the whole nature of man is clarified; through her [mankind] arrives at the Truth, through her he enjoys [Truths] beatitude."

The Goddess is still worshipped in the form of Chhathi Maiya in the popular festival Chhath Puja, held in the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and the adjoining country of Nepal.

In the British television science fiction series Doctor Who, Ushas is the original name of the Rani, a renegade time lady obsessed with genetic experimentation.

Glossary Contents: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z