Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad (1.1)

Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad (1.1)
Translation by
Shukavak N Dasa
Copyright©Sanskrit Religions Institute, 2016

The World as the Sacrificial Horse1

1. Verily, the dawn2 is the head of the sacrificial horse; the sun is its eye; the wind is its breath; and its wide open mouth is the universal fire. The year is the body of this sacrificial horse. The upper sky is its back; the lower sky is its stomach. The earth is its underbelly; its sides are the directions; its ribs are the intermediate directions; its limbs are the seasons; and the months and the fortnights are its joints. The day and night are its feet, the stars are its bones, the clouds are its flesh; sands are the grass in its belly. Its intestines are the rivers, the hills are its liver and lungs, and plants and trees are its bodily hair. His front is the rising sun; its back is the setting sun. When it yawns, the lightning flashes. When it shakes, there is thunder. When it urinates, there is rain. Its sound becomes words.

2. The day was born as the sacrificial cup placed before the horse. Its place is in the eastern ocean. The night was born as the sacrificial cup placed behind the horse. Its place is in the western ocean3. Indeed, these two sacrificial vessels arose on opposite sides of the horse. Becoming a steed, it carried the gods; becoming a stallion, it carried the Gandhavas; as a racer, it carried the demons; and as a horse, it carried men. Indeed, the ocean is its connection4 and its source5.

Here ends the first Brāhmaṇa of the first Adhyāya

1 This is a metaphor of the Aśva Medha sacrifice as the source of the world. The Aśva Medha is the most important and elaborate of Vedic sacrifices in ancient India. It is described in detail in the Śatapatha Brāhmana 13.1-5.
2 Here the word is uśā, the dawn.
3 Some commentators interpret this as the Arabian Sea on one side and the Bay of Bengal on the other side.
4 The word is bandhu, a relation.
5 The word is yoni, a womb.


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