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Prana Suktam – Significance Of All Important Life Breath in Atharva Veda

Prana Suktam is a hymn of 26 verses in the 11th skanda (section) of the Atharva Veda. It is devoted to extolling the prana or life breath. Through the Prana Suktam, Atharva Veda Samhita recognizes the power of life breath as the most important of all the vital airs, which not only rule over an individual but the entire universe.

Rishi Vaidarbhi, the scion of Sage Bhrigu, proclaims that it is these vital airs which keep a man alive and active.

Prana Suktam discusses the nature and importance of the element of the life breath. It also describes the method of the worship of the life breath.

They hymn states that life breath is supreme and everything depends on it.

Life breath pervades the earth, the atmosphere and the heaven.

The life breath of heaven covers the earth through the sun’s rays, the life-breath of the atmosphere reaches the earth through rain, and on earth life prevails in the form of life breath.

All beings live upon the life breath pervading the atmosphere and the heaven. All living beings rejoice with the life breath. When it rains on earth, all human beings, as well as the animals, are delighted.

Life breath has a relation similar to that of a father and a son.

It is the Lord of both those who breathe and those who do not. It is the life breath which remains active in every organ and sense of a body. It is the life breath which is the remedy of all remedies.

It is on account of the life breath that evil disappears from one’s body.

Life breath determines one’s age and in general gives longevity to a living being.

It is the father and protector of everybody.

Death, illness, and strength all depend on the life breath, directly or indirectly.

Those who are truthful attain the best of their ability at the pleasure of life breath.

The gods acquire strength by controlling life breath. Life breath inspires all the deities. 

Breath is the sun, the moon and Prajapati. Breathing and apana (expiration) are rice and barley.

Life breath adds to the strength of a body by entering it with the food that one eats. It generally remains active in the womb of a woman. It is through the life breath that the embryo develops in the womb of a new life is born. There is neither laziness nor hesitation in the life breath. It resides in different forms in the eight chakras (circles) of the body. Thus, in Atharva Veda, the life breath is recognized as a marvelous energy.

These details have been developed later in Brahmanas, Aranyakas and the Upanishads. By asserting that everything depends upon the life breath, Prana Sukta precisely glories it on a spiritual level.

In Atharva Veda Samhita, three separate verses are also dedicated to the praise of prana. In the entire Samhita, other references to life breath are scattered in the verse of the different deities. All these present Atharva Vedic deliberations on the life breath, vital spirits and life.

Atharva Veda Samhita Vol III (2000) W D Whitney – Parimal Publications Delhi
Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume VIII page 241 - IHRF