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Varuna


Varun, coverer, is a major Hindu god, concerned with the secure operation of the world's systems and of water. Lord of the asura deities, he was equated with Ahura-Mazdah. His later duty was a dikpala, guardian of the western direction. He is also regarded as an aditya, or sun god, the son of Kardama and consort of Gauri.

As the lord of the rta, in Hinduism the sense of fundamental order and balance in the world observed by appropriate rituals, Varuna watches over humanity with a thousand eyes, and shares responsibility for the sacrificial order; therefore he is connected with the emergent and related concept of dharma. Later in mythology the god Indra assumes precedent over him, and Varuna is reduced to the god of death.

He is till worshipped in southern India during times of drought, particularly in the coastal regions where he is thought to reside in trees.

In Vedic times his sacred animal was the ram. He rides upon a fish or sea monster, on in a chariot drawn by seven horses. His attributes are the conch, lotus, parasol, sacred thread, snake noose, trident, and water jar of jewels. He is depicted as potbellied and having four heads. He is particularly mentioned in the Rg Veda. A.G.H.


Sources:

Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, p. 279
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 1016