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Prithvi Sukta

Prithvi sukta is a hymn to Mother Earth. The word prithvi is derived from the root ‘prath’, meaning to expand or to extend. It is the feminine form of the noun ‘prithu’, which means vast, broad, expansive etc. Nirukta (I.13) defines prithvi as – prathanat prithvi. Nighantu (I.1) gives 21 and Amarakosha (II.2.1) gives 28 synonyms of prithvi.

There is only one sukta in Rig Veda (V.84) addressed to prithvi. In this sukta, the nature and function of prithvi and antariksha (dyu) are described. Bhumi Sukta or prithvi sukta of Atharva Veda (XII.1) depicts the importance, nature and remarkable features of the universal mother Prithvi – considered as a devi, the dispenser of every sort of good and one of the five great elements of Hindu tradition.

The hymn presents a striking cosmogonic and anthropological sequence. The very first mantra of the sukta (XII.1) states – the Earth sustains truth, cosmic order, initiation, penance, Brahman and sacrifice. It is said that the Earth is composed of mountains and plains, of snow-clad peaks, of deserts, oceans and rivers, of lakes and streams, trees and plants, rocks and stones (Atharva Veda XII 26-27). The Earth is the source and dwelling place of all creatures (XII. 15ab). It is upon her that they sing, dance and find their happiness. It is she who diversifies men’s speech into different languages. Hence, she is addressed as the mother of all, mata bhumih putro ham prithivyah (XII.1.12) and also prayed to, to give milk as a mother or her son (XII.1.10). This type of moral and noble feeling for motherland is really a great example of rashtrabhakti – patriotism. However, the Earth is depicted as a cosmic power, divine mother, the receiver of prayers and the bestower of blessings.