Hymn for peaceful sleep

Hymn 55 of Mandala VII, composed by Rishi Vasistha, is a prayer for a peaceful slumber for the inhabitants of the house.

As seen in verses 05-06 and 08, reproduced below, the prayer seeks to lull to sleep, the mother, the father, the master of the house, the women and matrons and every other relative (kinsmen) of the master of the house. RV 7.055.05 Sleep mother, let the father sleep, sleep dog and master of the house. Let all the kinsmen sleep, sleep all the people who are round about.

RV 7.055.06 The man who sits, the man who walks, and whosoever looks on us, Of these we closely shut the eyes, even as we closely shut this house.

RV 7.055.08 The women sleeping in the court, lying without, or stretched on beds, The matrons with their odorous sweets these, one and all, we lull to sleep.

Several aspects in these verses jumped at me:

The lack of mention of children or babies. I would have thought, a restful night for children would be of greater concern than for elders.

By all tokens, the description of the household in this hymn seems to be of a large one and/or a well to do one. Certainly large, since we find mention of parents and a rather large contingent of relatives. Could this then be a hymn used by a family priest for a person of nobility?

Verse 08 seems to suggest that might perhaps be the case. The house described appears to have a court, beds that women slept on and sweet smelling matrons in employment of the nobleman. I cannot imagine this to be indicative of a lifestyle of the entire population and thus constrained to conclude this hymn was indeed preserved for invocation by a well to do or powerful person in society.

There are several other interesting aspects in the hymn – particularly the mention of Vastospati – a vedic deity – considered to the guardian of the house. But that deserves an entirely separate article.


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