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Parjanya In Hinduism

In Hinduism, Parjanya is a term with various meanings and it is also used to address the Vedic rain god. The term parjanya is derived from the root prs, “to sprinkle, to give, to become wet.” In Hinduism it is used in the sense of a raincloud, thunder could, a cloud in general, the muttering or roaring of clouds, rain, and the God rain, Indra, or Surya, giver of all desires, etc.

In the lexicons, all these senses are recorded.

Yaska has given the etymology of the term parjanya in Nirukta (X.10) from which the basic concept of the term is expressed: parjanya (cloud) is derived from the verb tripti ‘to be stasified by reversing the first and the last letter (metathesis)”, one who gives satisfaction and is favorable to men or he is so called because he is the conqueror or he is the best progenitor or he is the bestower of juices.

In Vedic literature, Parjanya is praised by the seers as a God, though it is actually a natural phenomenon like a rain cloud or rain.

In Rig Veda, several hymns and mantras are recorded for Parjanya, where the shedding of rain is taken as his most prominent characteristic ( yat parjanya prthivim retasa avati – V83.4).

As thunder, Parjanya strikes down trees, demons and wrong-doers; the entire world is terrified at his mighty weapon. As divine, father, he comes to shed rainwater.

By raining, Parjanya activates the entire creation as the producer and nourisher of vegetation. In his activity, plants of every form spring up. He is fructified and helps plants to bear good fruits. Parjanya places the germ not only in plants but also in cows, mares and women and is invoked to bestow fertility. He is the bull (vrisha parjanya – Taittiriya Samhita II.4.9.4) that impregnates everything and all the atmas of dynamic and static creatures are empowered by him.

He is referred to as father due to his generative activity, especially by producing the seeds of plants.

In Rig Veda, the term parjanya is an appellative of the thundering rain cloud and the Rain God.

Parjanya is associated with the five primordial elements – earth, water, fire, wind and ether. In agriculture he plays a very important role. Hence in Yajur Veda (XXII.22) a prayer very clearly expresses the necessity of timely rains: nikamenikame na parjanyo varsatu.

In Brahmanas, the term parjanya is mentioned several times as a natural concept (parjanyah samvatsarasya vasordhara…Taittiriya Brahmana III.11.10.3; parjanyasya vidyut…Taittiriya Aranyaka III.9.2 etc). Though Vedic literature treats Parjanya as the God of rain and thunder, overshadowed by Rudra and Indra, there is an epithet that suggests that he may have held a high position – devaraja, the king of gods.

But as a concept, Parjanya is a nourisher and bestower of prosperity, happiness and peace. In the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, this message is recorded in several places. There is a cycle of creation in nature where Parjanya acts as a spoke – through the rays of the sun or sacrifice, parjanya (rain) pours down, through parjanya the plants and trees grow, out of them arises food and through the food, the life-breath comes into atma . (Gita III.14)

Source – 
Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume VIII – page 87 – 88 – IHRF
Vedic Mythology (1981) Alfred Hillebrandt – Translated by S.R. Sarma – Motilal Banarsidass. New Delhi.