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Agni, Vayu and other other Vasus, Udayagiri Caves, c. 401 CE

The Vasus (Sanskrit: वसु, romanizedVasu) are a group of deities in Hinduism associated with fire and light.[1] They are described as the attendant deities of Indra,[2] and later Vishnu.[3] Generally numbering eight and classified as the Ashtavasu,[4] they are described in the Ramayana as the children of Kashyapa and Aditi, and in the Mahabharata as the sons of Manu or Dharma and a daughter of Daksha named Vasu.[5] They are eight among the thirty-three gods featured in the Vedas.



The Sanskrit term Vasu(s) is translated as the "bright ones".[6]



There are varying lists of the eight Vasus in different texts, sometimes only because particular deities have varying names. The following are names and meanings according to the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Manava Purana, and according to the Mahabharata, as normally equated:[7]

Brihadaranyaka Manava Purana Mahabharata
Name Meaning Name Name Meaning
Prithvi Earth Bhumi Dharā Earth
Varuna Water Samudra Āpa Water
Agni Fire Agni Anala/Agni/Pavaka Fire
Vāyu Wind Vayu Anila Wind
Āditya Son of Aditi Amsuman Pratyūsha Sun
Dyaus/Akasha Sky Akasha Prabhāsa Sky/Ether
Chandramas Moon Varchas Soma Moon
Naksatrani Stars Prabhāsa Dhruva Motionless/Polaris

Though the Shatapatha Brahmana uses the Brhad-Aranyaka names, most later texts follow the Mahabharata names with the exception that Āpa 'water' usually appears in place of Aha. The Vishnu Purana equates Prabhāsa with the lights of the 27 Nakshatras (Constellations/Lunar Mansions) and Dhruva with Akasha, that is "space", Dhruva seemingly taking over Aha's role when Aha is replaced by Āpa.


The wife of one of the Vasus is tempted to steal the wish-bearing cow

In the Ramayana the Vasus are children of Aditi and Kashyapa.

The Mahabharata relates how the Vasus, led by "Prithu" (presumably here a male form of Prithvi), were enjoying themselves in the forest, when the wife of Prabhasa (also referred to as Dyaus) spotted a divine cow and persuaded her husband Prabhasa to steal it,[8] which Prabhasa did with the agreement and aid of Prithu and his other brothers. Unfortunately for the Vasus, the cow was owned by the sage Vashishta who learned through his ascetic powers that the Vasus had stolen it.[9] He immediately cursed them to be born on earth as mortals. Vashishta responded to pleading by the Vasus by promising that seven of them would be free of earthly life within a year of being born and that only Prabhasa would pay the full penalty. The Vasus then requested the river-goddess Ganga to be their mother. Ganga incarnated and became the wife of King Shantanu on condition that he never gainsaid her in any way. As seven children were born, one after the other, Ganga drowned them in her own waters, freeing them from their punishment and the king made no opposition. Only when the eighth was born did the king finally oppose his wife, who therefore left him. So the eighth son, Prabhasa incarnated, remained alive, imprisoned in mortal form, and later became known in his mortal incarnation as Bhishma.[10][11]

Other uses


Vasu is also the name of the eighth chakra (group) of Melakarta ragas in Carnatic music. The names of chakras are based on the numbers associated with each name. In this case, there are 8 Vasus and hence the eighth chakra is Vasu.[12][13]

See also



  1. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2014-04-18). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin UK. p. 1333. ISBN 978-81-8475-277-9.
  2. ^ Coulter, Charles Russell; Turner, Patricia (2021-12-06). Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities. McFarland. p. 493. ISBN 978-0-7864-9179-7.
  3. ^ Achuthananda, Swami (2018-08-27). The Ascent of Vishnu and the Fall of Brahma. Relianz Communications Pty Ltd. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-9757883-3-2.
  4. ^ Balfour, Edward (1885). The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia: Commercial, Industrial and Scientific, Products of the Mineral, Vegetable, and Animal Kingdoms, Useful Arts and Manufactures. B. Quartitch. p. 182.
  5. ^ Hopkins, Edward Washburn (June 1968). Epic Mythology. Biblo & Tannen Publishers. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-8196-0228-2.
  6. ^ Hardwick, Charles (2020-07-24). Traditions, Ssuperstitions, and Folk-Lore. BoD – Books on Demand. p. 279. ISBN 978-3-7523-3244-5.
  7. ^ Sutton, Komilla (2014-05-01). Nakshatras: The Stars Beyond the Zodiac. The Wessex Astrologer. p. 212. ISBN 978-1-902405-97-1.
  8. ^ Buitenen, Johannes Adrianus Bernardus; Buitenen, J. A. B. van; Fitzgerald, James L. (1973). The Mahabharata, Volume 1: Book 1: The Book of the Beginning. University of Chicago Press. p. 221. ISBN 978-0-226-84663-7.
  9. ^ Doniger, Wendy; O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger (1988). The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 332. ISBN 978-81-208-0386-2.
  10. ^ Raman, Gowri (2020-06-09). Mahabharatha. Blue Rose Publishers. p. 3.
  11. ^ Ray, Himanshu Prabha; Kulshreshtha, Salila; Suvrathan, Uthara (2022-10-13). The Routledge Handbook of Hindu Temples: Materiality, Social History and Practice. Taylor & Francis. p. 182. ISBN 978-1-000-78581-4.
  12. ^ South Indian Music Book III, by Prof. P Sambamoorthy, Published 1973, The Indian Music Publishing House
  13. ^ Ragas in Carnatic music by Dr. S. Bhagyalekshmy, Pub. 1990, CBH Publications