Parjanya Indra

The major Vedic storm-god is Indra, though he also has other functions, especially as the giver of victory in battle. There are other deities whose energies are more closely focused on thunder, lightning, and rain: the Maruts, who very often appear in association with Indra, and Parjanya.

Parjanya24 is called a son of Dyaus (RV 7. 102. 1), which expresses his natural relationship with the sky. Sometimes he takes the place of Dyaus as the consort of Earth who fertilizes her with his seed and so fathers living creatures (5. 83. 4; 7. 101. 3; AV 12. 1. 12, 42). He is especially associated with the rains, and parjanya- as a common noun means 'rain-cloud'. He is

21 Seleucus I established a cult of Keraunos at Seleucia Pieria (App. Syr. 58). Cf. also Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, v. 2220 (Emesa); H. Usener, Rh. Mus. 60 (1905), 1-30 = Kleine Schriften, iv (Leipzig-Berlin 1913), 471-97; Prehn, RExi. 270.

22 Grimm (1883-8), 171 n. 3, 'might perun be connected with Kepawo; = nepawo;?'; H. Güntert, Reimwortbildungen im Arischen und Altgriechischen (Heidelberg 1914), 215 f., 221; Jacobson (1962-88), ii. 636; vii. 6, 20; C. Watkins in Cardona et al. (1970), 350); id. in Mayrhofer et al. (1974), 107; id. (1995), 343 n. 1.

23 Nagy (1974), 126-8 = (1990), 194 f.; Puhvel (1987), 235. But 'having a smiting bolt' would be as tautologous as 'having thunder that thunders'. G. Meyer, Curtius' Studien 7 (1875), 180 f., connected the Tepm- with Latin torqueo, as in Virg. Aen. 4. 208 cum fulmina torques, etc.

24 On him cf. Macdonell (1898), 83-5; von Schroeder (1914-16), i. 413-23; Oberlies (1998), 200 f.

pictured as a bellowing bull who deposits his semen in the plants (RV 5. 83. 1; 7. 101. 6). But he is also a thunderer (5. 83. 2-9; 10. 66. 10) and dispenser of lightning (5. 83. 4; AV 19. 30. 5, TS 3. 4. 7. 2). In a simile in the Ramayana (6. 45. 28) a drum-roll is compared to Parjanya's roaring. He smites demons and evildoers (RV 5. 83. 2, 9). In another hymn he is implored to direct his thunder and lightning at the snake or snakes, not at mankind.25

His name has long been felt to belong in the company of Perkunas, Fiorgynn, and the others. But *Perkwun(y)o- would have come out in Vedic as *Parkun(y)a-. The -jan- that we actually have should come from *-gan- or *gen- or *-gon-. The comparativists' response has been to postulate *per-g as another variant of the 'strike' root beside *per and *per-kw. An Armenian form is cited in support. The extended root is then furnished with a deverba-tive suffix -ani-, which makes an adjective 'striking' or an abstract noun, and finally we postulate conversion from an -i-stem into a -yo-stem.26 Bravo! But even if we allow the concurrence of *per, *perkw, and *perg, all meaning the same thing, the upshot is that Perkunas, Perun, and Parjanya are independent creations on this root, each fashioned with a different formant, and we fail to reconstruct a single prototype as the name of the Indo-European god. To achieve that, we have to invoke taboo deformation, a valid tactic in principle but unfortunately subject to no philological control.

We should not on this account abandon the idea of an Indo-European storm-god. There are sufficient common features among the historical storm-gods, whether or not they have related names, for that to remain a probable hypothesis. Let us move on to the ones whose names clearly have other origins, working our way back from India to Iceland.

Firstly Indra, an Indo-Iranian deity who goes back at least to the first half of the second millennium. His name is perhaps related to Slavonic *jqdrn 'virile, vigorous'. He is one of the gods named in Suppiluliuma's treaty with Mitanni, and the most prominent of all the deities of the Rigveda.

He is sometimes made a son of Dyaus (RV 4. 17. 4, cf. 10. 120. 1), sometimes of Tvastr. He is king of the gods (1. 174. 1, AV 19. 46. 4). Men pray to him in battle (RV 1. 63. 6, 81. 1, 100. 1, etc.). As god of the storm, he is 'equal in strength to the rain-bringing Parjanya' (8. 6. 1). However, there is a notable difference in the treatment of the two deities. Parjanya's operations are described with altogether more direct naturalism than Indra's.27 There is pictorial imagery, he travels in a car, pours the water out of a skin bag, and so

25 AV Paipp. 2. 70. 1-3, quoted and translated by Watkins (1995), 543.

26 Nagy (1974), 115 f. = (1990), 185 f. G. E. Dunkel, Die Sprache 34 (1988-90), 3 f., analyses as *per-g-nnyo-.

27 Oldenberg (1917), 137 f.; Nagy (1990), 192. On Indra generally see Macdonell (1898), 54-66.

on, but he is not credited with any mythical accomplishments. Indra, on the other hand, hardly ever causes rain; his activities are wrapped up in mythical language and often expressed as past achievements. It is recalled how with his bolt he killed Vrtra or Vala or some other adversary and so released the blocked-up waters or the hidden cows. We shall see presently that these stories contain an Indo-European element. Indra may have taken them over from Parjanya.28

Like Parjanya, Indra is sometimes portrayed as a bull. At the Sakamedha sacrifice a real bull had to bellow as a signal that Indra was present to receive his offering and ready for the killing of Vrtra.29 Apart from the analogy between the bull's bellow and the thunder, the bull image is an expression of Indra's terrific strength, a property often emphasized.

As one might expect of such a champion, he is a mighty eater and drinker. He eats the flesh of twenty bulls or a hundred buffaloes, and drinks whole lakes of Soma.30 He then shakes the excess liquid out of his beard, which is fiery or reddish in colour (harita), and it comes down as rain (2. 11. 17; 10. 23. 1, 4, 96. 8).

He rejoices in the title vrtrahan-, 'vrtra-smasher', applied to him over fifty times in the Rigveda. The word vrtra- denotes something or someone that blocks the way, an obstacle or enemy. As a masculine, Vrtrah, it is usually the name of the demon or dragon that blocks the waters and is shattered by Indra's bolt. As a neuter plural, vrtra or vrMm, it has the general sense of 'opposing forces, enemies'. So vrtrahan- may be understood either as a generic epithet appropriate to Indra as god of battle or as having specific reference to his defeat of Vrtra in his capacity as storm-god. In the Avesta we find a god Varaörayna-, whose name corresponds to vrtrahan- and presumably began as the by-name of an Iranian Indra, though he has developed into an independent figure.31 He is unequivocally a god of battle, and his name means Victorious, with no reference to a storm demon. So this, we may presume, was the primary sense of the title, and Indra probably had it before he took over the storm-god's role. The monster Vrtra, or at least his name, then looks like a secondary creation, abstracted from vrtrahan-.32 However, the Armenian national hero Vahagn, who developed from the Iranian Varaörayna-, was celebrated for fighting and slaying dragons, and he had the

28 Cf. Müller (1897), 756; G. E. Dunkel, Die Sprache 34 (1988-90), 7 f.

29 Oldenberg (1917), 74.

30 Macdonell (1898), 56, with references; Oldenberg (1917), 165 f.

31 Indra is mentioned only in the late Avestan Videvdat, and there as a demon (daeva, 10. 9, 19. 43).

32 Cf. R. C. Zaehner, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism (London 1961), 103; Puhvel (1987), 51, 102; Watkins (1995), 298.

reddish beard that seems to be a distinguishing feature of the Indo-European thunder-god (Perkunas, Perun, Indra, Thor).33

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