Just as a farmer or cattle-herd turns his gaze skywards in northern India, anxiously looking for signs of rain, so did his ancestors several thousands of years ago. With every passing dry day, anxiety turns to desperation and finally to prayer.
The renowned Rish Atri Bhauma, composed a prayer that the ancients would have offered to invoke Parjanya – their rain god. This prayer appears as hymn 83 in the Atri family book – Mandala V.
The hymn begins with an invocation to the mighty god – “Sing with these songs thy welcome to the Mighty, with adoration praise and call Parjanya”. The importance of this god is not lost on Atri Bhauma or the people of that time. This rain causing god lays the seed for germination in the plants, indeed the very germ of life,
RV 5.083.01 Sing with these songs thy welcome to the Mighty, with adoration praise and call Parjanya. The Bull, loud roaring, swift to send his lays in the plants the seed for germination.
RV 5.083.07 Thunder and roar: the germ of life deposit. Fly round us on thy chariot waterladen. Thine opened water-skin draw with thee downward, and let the hollows and the heights be level.
By the grace of Parjanya, plants shoot up and food springs abundant for all living creatures. At his behest, the plants assume all colours.
RV 5.083.04 Forth burst the winds, down come the lightning-flashes: the plants shoot up, the realm of light is streaming. Food springs abundant for all living creatures, what time Parjanya quickens earth with moisture.
RV 5.083.05 Thou at whose bidding earth bows low before thee, at whose command hoofed cattle fly in terror, At whose behest the plants assume all colours, even thou Parjanya, yield us great protection.
By his beneficence, desert lands become habitable and life saving herbs grow.
RV 5.083.10 Thou hast poured down the rain-flood now withhold it. Thou hast made desert places fit for travel. Thou hast made herbs to grow for our enjoyment: yea, thou hast won thee praise from living creatures.
In verse 8 of this hymn, Atri Bhauma, pleads with the god to lift up the mighty vessel and pour down water so the liberated streams can rush forward, that both earth and heaven be saturated with fatness.
RV 5.083.08 Lift up the mighty vessel, pour down water, and let the liberated streams rush forward. Saturate both the earth and heaven with fatness, and for the cows let there be drink abundant.
And when Parjanya delivers, the universe exults in unison.
RV 5.083.09 When thou, with thunder and with roar, Parjanya, smitest sinners down, This universe exults thereat, yea, all that is upon the earth.
This sweltering summer, as I think of the ravaged farmers across this great land of mine, my mind will keep going back in time when my ancestors, just as helpless, turned to Parjanya for deliverance.