as a class of semi-divine beings along with the Gandharvas and others; and in the Sūtras offerings to them are prescribed. In the latter works we meet for the first time with the Nāgas, in reality serpents, and human only in form. In post-Vedic times serpent-worship is found all over India. Since there is no trace of it in the Rigveda, while it prevails widely among the non-Aryan Indians, there is reason to believe that when the Aryans spread over India, the land of serpents, they found the cult diffused among the aborigines and borrowed it from them.
Plants are frequently invoked as divinities, chiefly in enumerations along with waters, rivers, mountains, heaven, and earth. One entire hymn (x. 97) is, however, devoted to the praise of plants (oshadhi) alone, mainly with regard to their healing powers. Later Vedic texts mention offerings made to plants and the adoration paid to large trees passed in marriage processions. One hymn of the Rigveda (x. 146) celebrates the forest as a whole, personified as Araṇyānī, the mocking genius of the woods. The weird sights and sounds of the gloaming are here described with a fine perception of nature. In the dark solitudes of the jungle
- Sounds as of grazing cows are heard,
- A dwelling-house appears to loom,
- And Araṇyānī, Forest-nymph,
- Creaks like a cart at eventide.
- Here some one calls his cow to him,
- Another there is felling wood;
- Who tarries in the forest-glade
- Thinks to himself, "I heard a cry."
- Never does Araṇyānī hurt
- Unless one goes too near to her:
- When she has eaten of sweet fruit
- At her own will she goes to rest.