Acharyasri Sachchidanand Trust


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Seeker: Who all are called ‘Devatas’ and how many are they?

Acharyasri: In the episode describing the Devatas, Niruktacharya Yask has said-
“Devo daanadva, deepanadva, dyotanadva, dyusthano bhavatiti va.”
Meaning – The one who donates (gives) is Devata, the one who illuminates is Devata, the one who imparts the doctrine of truth is Devata, and the one who is positioned above all is Devata. (Nirukta, 7:15)
Consequently, since Devata symbolises ‘charity’, therefore, one who gives away his possessions for the benefit of all, is a Devata. The attribute of Devata is to illuminate means to light, so those who are luminous, like Sun, Fire etc. are called Dev or Devata. The primary feature of Devata is ‘Dayotan’ means, a person who believes in truth, speaks the truth and follows the truth, is called a Devata. Another qualification of Devata is ‘Dyusthan’ means to be situated above, thus the Sun which is located above in the universe, the scholar whose position is elevated in the society and the king whose designation is at the helm of the nation are also called Devatas. The word Dev has many meanings, the word Dev is used for both conscious and inanimate things, but the meanings vary according to conditions and purposes. According to the Shatapatha Brahmana text of ancient times, there’s a famous dialogue between Maharishi Yajnavalkya and Vidagdha Shaklya on the subject of Devatas, which is as follows-
Vidagdha asks Yajnavalkya – “Who are the thirty three Devatas?” Yajnavalkya says – Eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, one Indra and one Prajapati. Vidagdha asked- “Who are the eight Vasus?” Yajnavalkya explains – Fire, Earth, Air, Space, Sun, Sky, Moon and the Stars. These eight entities are called Vasus. Since these subsist in others, they are called Vasus. Vidagdha asks – “Who are the eleven Rudras?” Yajnavalkya elucidates – The ten Pranas (prana, apana, samana etc.) in the body and one soul, these are the eleven Rudras. When they leave the body, the body becomes inactive or dead. When these eleven Devatas leave the body, they make the relatives cry because their loved one has died, so they are called Rudras. Vidagdha further asks- “Who are the twelve Adityas?” Yajnavalkya answers – The twelve months (Chaitra, Vaishakh, Jyeshtha etc.) of Samvatsara are the twelve Adityas. Since they are instrumental in the passage of time of the world, hence they are called the Adityas. Vidagdha asks- “Who is Indra?” Yajnavalkya says- “The thunder (cloud) is Indra. Vidgdha asks- “Who is the one who thunders?” Yajnavalkya clarifies- It is the lightening that is called the thunder. The cloud rains with lightening, causing the plants to grow which provide food and in effect, gives rise to prosperity. This is the form of Indra. Vidagdha asks- “Who is Prajapati?” Yajnavalkya explains- Yajna is called Prajapati. Vidagdha asked- “What is the Yajna?” Yajnavalkya says –The animals are addressed as Yajnas. The animals are part of the Yajna as they are the provider for the people of the state. (Shatapatha Brahmana, 14: 6: 4: 3-7)
Apart from the above thirty-three Devas or Devatas mentioned by Maharishi Yajnavalkya, Mother, Father, Teacher or Acharya, Guests, Scholars, the sense organs and the Veda Mantras etc. have also been called Devatas in the scriptures.

Seeker: Why is God (Almighty) also called a Devata?

Acharyasri: God is the main giver so he is called a Devata because he is the one who has given everything to the world. The Sun, Lightening, fire etc. are all illuminated by the light of that one God and without Him nothing can be illuminated on its own. So God is the prime Devata, the one who speaks the truth, the one who gives the knowledge, the one who is a protector, and the one who illuminates all, is called Devata.

Seeker: Why are mother, father, Acharya (teacher) and guest called ‘Devs’ or Devatas?

Acharyasri: A parent (mother or father) is a protector, an acharya or teacher imparts knowledge, and the guest follows the path of truth, these are called Devatas. That is why it is written in the Taittiriya Upanishad-
Matrudevo Bhava. Pitrudevo Bhava. Acharyadevo Bhava. Athithidevo Bhava.
This means, “Consider mother as Devata, consider father as Devata, consider teacher as Devata, and consider guest as Devata.” (Taittiriya Upanishad, 1: 11: 2)

Seeker: Why is a scholar called ‘Dev’?

Acharyasri: “Vidvanso hi devaa”. (Shatapatha Brahmana, 3: 4: 3: 10)
In the above mentioned statement of Shatapatha Brahmana, scholars have been called Dev because they impart knowledge and speak the truth etc., and therefore they have an elevated position in the society and that is why the scholars are called Dev.

Seeker: Why are the senses called ‘Dev’?

Acharyasri: “Nainaddeva Aapnuvanpurvamarsat.” (Yajurveda, 40: 4)
In the aforesaid statement of the Yajurveda, the word Devata means that which is acquired or learnt by the senses therefore the senses are referred to as Devata. Since the senses have knowledge through sound, touch, sight, etc., they are called Devatas.

Seeker: Why are the Veda Mantras called ‘Dev’?

Acharyasri: Veda mantras are called Dev because we get their true knowledge by knowing their meanings. Devata also means someone or something with divine attributes. This divine attribute can be both manifest and unmanifest. Everything, from the Supreme God to the earthly things, which has divine qualities, is called a devata. In the Vedas, the names of many such divine entities are mentioned as Devata. When any divine entity is extolled or described in the Veda mantra, it is said to be the subject or Devata of that mantra. Shaunak Rishi has written in his text Brihaddevata-
“Veditavyam devatam hi mantray mantray prayatnatah.
Devatagyo hi mantraanam tadarthamavagachhati.”
That is to say, “In each mantra, we should try to know the Devata (subject) of that mantra. Only those who comprehend the Devata or the subject of the mantra can understand its true meaning. – (Brihaddevata, 1: 2)

~ Acharyasri