Aditi, The Mother of Gods

Hinduism Concepts

by Jayaram V

Aditi is the primal goddess of the Hindu pantheon. She is one of the few goddesses mentioned in the Vedas. Aditi means the one who is unbound, unlimited and unfettered. She is the personification of the sky and space in which reside all gods, from where Indra sends down his thunder bolt or fights with Vrata to release the waters or where one can see Aditya, the sun god, riding in his golden chariot yoked by seven ruddy horses, illuminating the the sky and the earth with his effulgence as he rides from east to west.

According to legends, she personifies time. The Vedic hymns mention her frequently as the mother of gods and all creatures. Although no hymns are directly addressed to Aditi, her popularity as the universal mother is evident from the copious references to her name in the hymns of the Rigveda and Yajurveda addressed to other gods such as Indra, Varuna, Adityas and Soma.

She being the mother of gods, the hymns urge Aditi to mediate between men and gods and exert her motherly influence upon them to help the worshippers. They also seek her help directly for protection, cattle, forgiveness, freedom from sin and abundance. Those who live in the heavens belong to Aditi. So those who desire to go to heaven should seek her help and mediation.

In some Vedic hymns she is mentioned as Prithvi, the supporter or substratum of all. In some she is compared to a cow, as the provider of nourishment for all creatures. Adityas are her effulgent solar sons, who are mentioned to be either seven, eight or twelve of whom one is said to be her husband also. She is also described as the mother of Indra.

The Vedas describe her as the wife of Daksha, the grand father of all living forms. But in the Puranas and the epics we see a clear shift in her status and role. They depict her as deva matri, the mother of not just the Adityas, but all the 330 million gods. In the Matsya Purana she appears in a brief role as the receiver of a pair of ear rings from Indra, the ruler of heavens, as a gift during the churning of the oceans. The Vishnu Purana describes her as the daughter of Daksha and the wife of Kashyapa, the progenitor of human race, through whom she begot Vamana, an incarnation of Vishnu.

According to the Devi Bhagavata, Devaki, the mother of Lord Krishna, is an earthly manifestation of Aditi. In the Puranas Aditi has an opponent in the form of Diti (the bound one), who is the mother of daityas or asuras, a type of demons.

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