USHAS – A goddess

USHASIn Vedic mythology Ushas was the goddess of dawn and the herald of all that was connected with the advent of the sun, Surya, supreme ruler of the heavens.
She announced Surya, who brought along with her, light to make the pas­tures fertile, horses, chariots, wealth, and plenitude. The mighty sun god seemed unapproachable to the Vedic worshipper because of his formidable luminance; Surya could not be directly viewed by ordinary mortal eyes. Ushas was approach­able in the light of early morning devotion and would lead mortals to the all­powerful sun god. Bringing forth Surya, she was invoked as the eye of the gods (Rigveda 7.77.3: devanam chakshuh . . . vahanti).
She was ever the young woman and the immortal divine one who bestowed material wealth upon the Aryans. She was described as the mother of plenitude (Rigveda 7.77.2: gavam mata), beautiful and ever young, yet also the one who ages humankind. The cool rays of Ushas, the beautiful mother, had the power to direct and channel the mighty powers of the sun god.
Even in the Vedic hymns her lineage was traced back to two different ori­gins. The first made her the daughter of a somewhat obscure sky god named Diva (also called Vivasvan). This lineage seemed to be the most common in the hymns to her and made her the sister of the solar deities known as the adityas (Rigveda 7.77.6), including the mighty Varuna.
However, the second lineage involved a complex problem in Vedic mythol­ogy: the mode of creation. According to it, Ushas was said to be the daughter of Prajapati, father of all beings. He represented a monotheistic direction in later Vedic mythology, where he rivaled the Vedic Triad of Surya, Indra, and Agni, rulers of the three realms. A careful reading of the hymns revealed that he cre­ated Ushas in an unspecified way, perhaps by word or division of himself, but not with a mate—for he, Prajapati, was the origin of everything. He then mated with her, and she became the mother of all things. Some scholars miss the unique solution of the Vedic poets in this myth. It need not be written off as incest; it can be seen as a mythopoeic solution for creation, in which a feminine solar deity was the mother of creation. Yet, in the second lineage she was still referred to as the sister of the adityas, showing an inability on the part of the poets to fully draw out the implications of her relationship to the adityas—since they had become her children.
Ushas was related to other female goddesses and gods in the Vedic period like Vac (goddess of speech), Prana (god of breath), and Manah (goddess of mind). Ushas was the bestower of material wealth in all its forms. Even though she was immor­tal, she did not give immortality to mortals. There seemed to be a developing reli­gious or spiritual hierarchy in her gifts of material prosperity and pleasure contrasting with those of the later Vedic goddesses who gave higher knowledge, power, and wisdom. Her gifts were this-worldly. Vac, especially, prefigured a still later goddess, Sarasvati, who ruled the realm of knowledge of specific sciences and arts—in fact, who was the repository of all conceivable knowledge.
Ushas is still significant in contemporary India. She is acknowledged and worshipped through the Gayatri mantra, the spiritual armor of Hindu brahmins and brahmacharis (celibate individuals) throughout India. This mantra, used as a morning (and often evening) devotion, has been recited by the most orthodox for three thousands years.

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