Aditi (Sanskrit अदिति, limitless) is the Hindu goddess of the sky, consciousness, the past, the future, and fertility. In one of the most mystic aspects, Aditi is divine wisdom. She is mentioned nearly 80 times in the Rigveda, which is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. They are counted among the four canonical sacred texts (śruti) of Hinduism known as the Vedas.
Perhaps the most outstanding attribute of Aditi is her motherhood. She is said to be the mother of the great god Indra, the mother of kings (Mandala 2.27), and the mother of gods (Mandala 1.113.19). In the Vedas, Aditi is Devamatri (mother of the celestial gods) as from and in her cosmic matrix all the heavenly bodies were born. As the celestial virgin and mother of every existing form and being, the synthesis of all things, she is highest Akasha.
Aditi is preeminently the mother of 12 Adityas whose names include Vivasvān, Aryamā, Pūṣā, Tvaṣṭā, Savitā, Bhaga, Dhātā, Vidhātā, Varuṇa, Mitra, Śatru, and Urukrama. She is also is the mother of the Vamana avatar of Vishnu. Accordingly, Vishnu was born as the son of Aditi in the month of Shravana (fifth month of the Hindu Calendar, also called Avani) under the star Shravana. Many auspicious signs appeared in the heavens, foretelling the good fortune of this child.
In the Rigveda, Aditi is one of most important figures of all. As a mothering presence, Aditi is often asked to guard the one who petitions her (Mandala 1.106.7; Mandala 8.18.6) or to provide him or her with wealth, safety, and abundance (Mandala 10.100; 1.94.15). She is also identified with Vāc (mystic speech) in the Rigveda, and with the Mulaprakriti or Prakriti in Vedanta.
Appropriate to her role as a mother, Aditi is sometimes associated with or identified as a cow. Aditi is also called widely expanded (Mandala 5.46.6) and extensive, the mistress of wide stalls (Mandala 8.67.12). As a cow, she provides nourishment, and as the cosmic cow, her milk is identified with the redemptive, invigorating drink Soma (Mandala 1.153.3). As the womb of space, she is a feminized form of Brahma. The line in the Rigveda, "Daksha sprang from Aditi and Aditi from Daksha" (Mandala 10.72.4) has reference to "the eternal cyclic re-birth of the same divine essence".
Aditi is usually mentioned in the Rigveda along with other gods and goddesses. There is no one hymn addressed exclusively to her, unlike other Vedic gods. She is perhaps not related to a particular natural phenomenon like other gods. Compared to Usha and Prithvi, Aditi can be defined as the cosmic creatrix, the creativity of the all-creating.
The name Aditi includes the root "da" (to bind or fetter) and suggests another attribute of her character. As A-diti, she is un-bound, free one, and it is evident in the hymns to her that she is often called to free the petitioner from different hindrances, especially sin and sickness. (Mandala 2.27.14). In one hymn, she is asked to free a petitioner who has been tied up like a thief (Mandala 8.67.14). As one who unbinds, her role is similar to her son Varuna's as guardian of Rta, cosmic moral order. She is called the supporter of creatures (Mandala 1.136).
Aditi challenges the modern idea that the Vedic peoples were patriarchal. Aditi was regarded as both the sky goddess, and earth goddess, which is very rare for a prehistoric civilization. Most prehistoric civilizations venerated a dual principle, Sky Father and Earth Mother, which appears to be borrowed from the concept of Prithivi and Dyaus Pita. Aditi was attributed the status of first deity by the Vedic culture, although she is not the only one attributed this status in the Vedas. She is addressed, in the Rigveda as "Mighty".
- Lajja Gauri: a goddess associated with Aditi
- List of Hindu deities
- List of Hinduism-related articles
- Dallapiccola, Anna L. Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend, Thames & Hudson, 2002. ISBN 978-0-500-51088-9
- Kinsley, David. Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions, Motilal Banarsidass Publications, 1998. ISBN 978-8120803947
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