Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/124

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Sweet-scented, redolent of balm,
Replete with food, yet tilling not,
Mother of beasts, the Forest-nymph,
Her I have magnified with praise.

On the whole, however, the part played by plant, tree, and forest deities is a very insignificant one in the Rigveda.

A strange religious feature pointing to a remote antiquity is the occasional deification and worship even of objects fashioned by the hand of man, when regarded as useful to him. These are chiefly sacrificial implements. Thus in one hymn (iii. 8) the sacrificial post (called "lord of the forest") is invoked, while three hymns of the tenth book celebrate the pressing stones used in preparing soma. The plough is invoked in a few stanzas; and an entire hymn (vi. 75) is devoted to the praise of various implements of war, while one in the Atharva-veda (v. 20) glorifies the drum.

The demons so frequently mentioned in the Rigveda are of two classes. The one consists of the aërial adversaries of the gods. The older view is that of a conflict waged between a single god and a single demon. This gradually developed into the notion of the gods and the demons in general being arrayed against each other as two opposing hosts. The Brāhmaṇas regularly represent the antagonism thus. Asura is the ordinary name of the aërial foes of the gods. This word has a remarkable history. In the Rigveda it is predominantly a designation of the gods, and in the Avesta it denotes, in the form of Ahura, the highest god of Zoroastrianism. In the later parts of the Rigveda, however, asura, when used by itself, also signifies "demon," and this is its only sense in the Atharva-veda. A somewhat unsuccessful