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Aditi and Adityas – Symbolism And Meaning

Aditi means the unbound ‘primordial power’ as opposed to diti, the weak. The sons of Aditi are Adityas and are generally enumerated as six in Vedas, which give a beautiful delineation of these as six sovereign cosmic principles and eight or twelve in Brahmanas. In fact the whole khanda in Rigveda describes Adityas as endowed with the qualities of Aditi. They are effluent, pure, compassionate, great, deep, indestructible, ever-awake, unwinking, unchallenged and omniscient. They support the three luminaries, the fire, lighting and the sun.

Aditi is called rajaputra, with sons as rulers of the Universe (Rigveda II 27.7) and is eulogizes thus in Rig Veda I 72.9) –

Creating the way for immortality
Are stationed all these infallible ones
With these great sons the mother Aditi, the prime vastness,
Is there to sustain all by her greatness

Taittiriya Aranyaka enumerates eight Adityas with Indra and Dhata and Vivasvan in place of Daksha – astan putraso aditey mitrasca varunasca dhata carymaca amsusca bhagasca indrasca vivasvamscetyete (1.13.3). The twelve Adityas in Satapatha Brahmana ( correspond to the samvatsara (the twelve months of the year), which symbolizes the cycle of cosmic time and functioning. Samvatsara is called Prajapati (the creator), as well as yajna (the creative process); samvatsara is also equated with mrityu (death).

So, the Vedic vision of the origin of the universe and the cycle of time and its effect on life at microcosmic and macrocosmic levels is indeed represented through Aditi, Adityas and all other related symbols of Vedic poetry and is correspondingly interpreted in the post-Samhita Vedic literature and elaborated through the stories in the Puranas.