A Nature Deity? The Ṛgvedic Savitṛ Revisited
Keywords:Ancient Cultures, Vedic Religion, Savitṛ, Archaeoastronomy, Milky Way, Zodiacal light, Crepuscular rays
The problematic identity of the deity Savitṛ in early Vedic religion has sparked more than a century of discussion. Harry Falk, for instance, argued that this god, whose name literally means “Impeller”, can be identified with the Milky Way and associated with the rainy season. Others have suggested that he becomes visible in the zodiacal light or crepuscular rays. The aims of this paper are to review the most important theories about Savitṛ’s manifestations in nature in Ṛgvedic times and to reassess whether and in what ways different natural phenomena and celestial luminaries may have been associated with this deity. In discussing the theories proposed so far, I not only consider the Vedic sources but re-evaluate the archaeoastronomical arguments with modern software. As it turns out, there is no conclusive evidence that Savitṛ was associated with any single phenomenon or luminary at all. Rather, he was an anthropomorphic deification of what was perceived as a certain “cosmic” or “natural” force.
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