History in the Rig Veda–Hymn 10.33

The Vr̥ṣā́kapi hymn (RV 10.86), when looked at from the perspective of history, allows us to get a glimpse of a very ancient event – a rebellion against the king that happened in a kingdom of the tribe of Párśu around 3900 BCE. See my previous blog post on this: A Historical event in the Rig Veda – The Vr̥ṣā́kapi Hymn (RV 10.86)

Another hymn that clearly seems to describe a historical event is RV 10.33. The hymn seems to describe a “eulogist” lamenting the death in battle of the king of their tribe. The king’s name is mentioned as Kurusravana, the grandson of Trasadasyu. The “eulogist” is particularly unhappy because he had a hand in anointing Kurusravana as king. He is worried that the new king, Kurusravana’s son, Upamasravas and his grandson, the crown prince, Mitratithi may not be as liberal to him as Kurusravana was.

How was Kurusravana killed? In battle with whom?

Let us look at 10.33.1 and 10.33.2.

प्र मा॑ युयुज्रे प्र॒युजो॒ जना॑नां॒ वहा॑मि स्म पू॒षण॒म् अन्त॑रेण । prá mā yuyujre prayújo jánānāṃ váhāmi sma pūṣáṇam ántareṇa ।

विश्वे॑ दे॒वासो॒ अध॒ माम् अ॑रक्षन् दुः॒शासु॒र् आगा॒द् इति॒ घोष॑ आसीत् ॥ víśve devā́so ádha mā́m arakṣan duḥśā́sur ā́gād íti ghóṣa āsīt ॥

सम् मा॑ तपन्त्य् अ॒भितः॑ स॒पत्नी॑र् इव॒ पर्श॑वः । sám mā tapanty abhítaḥ sapátnīr iva párśavaḥ ।

नि बा॑धते॒ अम॑तिर् न॒ग्नता॒ जसु॒र् वेर् न वे॑वीयते म॒तिः ॥ ní bādhate ámatir nagnátā jásur vér ná vevīyate matíḥ ॥

Griffith has translated the above thus:

The urgings of the people have impelled me, and by the nearest way I bring you Pusan.

The Universal Gods have brought me safely. The cry was heard, Behold, Duhsasu cometh!

The ribs that compass me give pain and trouble me like rival wives.

Indigence, nakedness, exhaustion press me sore: my mind is fluttering like a bird’s.

We can more or less agree with Griffith’s translation, except for his rendering for the word पर्श॑वः párśavaḥ. Griffith seems to have translated this word as “ribs.” What does this mean? “The ribs that compass me give pain” seems to make no sense. It would be better to translate पर्श॑वः párśavaḥ as Parshus – the tribe. Now the line seems to make sense. The tribe of Parshus have attacked “eulogist’s” kingdom and killed their king Kurusravana. They seem to have laid waste to this kingdom. The eulogist says that he is “naked.” He seems to have lost everything.

The tribe of Párśu is mentioned only a few times in the Rig Veda. 10.33 is one such hymn. The other occasions are in 1.105 and 10.86. Hymn 1.105 seems to be a general lament on the fate of the writer and his people. The first line of 1.105.8 is identical to the first line of 10.33.2 mentioned above, again referring to the defeat by the Parshus.

The other reference is in 10.86 – The Vr̥ṣā́kapi hymn. I have dealt at length on this hymn in the previous blog post. Hymn 10.33 seems to be describing the fallout of the rebellion described in hymn 10.86. Kurusravana may have been one of the kings who supported defeated king mentioned in 10.86. The new Parshu king may have come after all the kings who supported the old king to teach them a lesson. He attacked the kingdom mentioned in 10.33, killed its king and installed his son as king. This is why the “eulogist” is worried. The new king, as a vassal to the Parshu king, may not be as liberal as Kurusravana.

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One thought on “History in the Rig Veda–Hymn 10.33

  1. Hi Paramu,

    This is the best thing a TULBuddy could have done for the rest of us. Kudos to you for both the text (lessons and discourses) and the videos.

    best regards
    jap

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