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Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier, birder and amateur arachnologist. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. Before that, worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai from 1993-2007. Also a wildlife conservationist working in the tiger reserves of central India with Satpuda Foundation.

This blog is for aboriginal breed enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah) and INDog-mix mongrels are featured here. The two are NOT the same, do please read the text on the right to understand the difference. Our aim: to create awareness about the primitive natural breed called the Indian Pariah Dog/INDog. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Sarama, Dog of the Gods

This one is for culture and mythology buffs.

The Rg Veda (composed between 1300-1000 BC) tells us of Indra’s dog Sarama, called devashuni or bitch of the gods. The name Sarama means “the fleet one.”

The cattle of the god Brihaspati had been stolen by the Panis, followers of the demon Vala. They had hidden them in a cave. At Brihaspati’s request Sarama was sent to look for them. She crossed a large river and found the place where the cattle were hidden.

The dialogue that took place between Sarama and the Panis is recounted in Volume 10, verse 108.

The Panis tried to make friends with her: “We will make you our sister, do not return, we will share the cattle with you, auspicious one.”

But Sarama sternly demanded the return of the cattle, saying “I recognize not fraternity nor sisterhood.”

A battle ensued after which Indra was able to recover the cattle.

The myth of the Panis is also found in the Jaiminlya Brahmana. In this version the gods first sent the eagle Suparna to find the cattle, but he was bribed into silence by the Panis and returned without information, for which he was punished. Sarama was then sent to find the cows. For her loyalty she and her descendants were blessed by Indra.

Sarama also makes an appearance in the Mahabharata, in the Adi parva.

Janamejaya, a descendent of the Pandavas, accompanied by his brothers, was conducting a long sacrifice in the field of the Kurus, when a son of Sarama came by. Janamejaya’s brothers beat the dog, who went yelping to his mother.

She asked him if he had done anything wrong there.

Her son replied, “I did nothing wrong! I neither looked nor licked at the offerings.”

Sarama then went aggrieved to Janamejaya and angrily cursed him:
“This son of mine did nothing wrong here! Why was he beaten? As he was beaten without doing wrong, therefore an unforeseen danger will befall you.”

Janamejaya was very worried by the curse and made much effort searching for a priest to expiate the sin.

(Those were good times! If only we could go around cursing all the ghastly people who beat dogs).

Sarama’s sons were called the Sarameyas and are described as chaturaksh or four-eyed. Two of them, Shyama and Shabala, were the companions of the god Yama, and guarded the road the dead must pass to go to heaven. Volume 10.14.10 of the Rg Veda says “pass by a secure path beyond the two spotted foureyed dogs, the progeny of Sarama…

Entrust him, O king, to your two dogs, which are your protectors, Yama, the four-eyed guardians of the road, renowned by men.”

Elsewhere, sarameya is used to mean a dog of high race.

Of course I'd like to believe that Sarama was visualized as a kind of Indian Native superdog, but I haven't found any descriptions to support this, especially as at least two other types of dog may have been around at that time. The Sarameyas in fact seem to have a rather fearsome appearance, as befits messengers of the god of Death.

Anyway, it’s nice to know that in Vedic times dogs were not looked down on (as in the later age of Puranic Brahmanism), but on the contrary treated with some respect.

(The quotations from the Rg Veda are from the translation by H H Wilson and Bhasya of Sayanacharya. The quotations from the Mahabharata are from the translation by Johannes Buitenen).

Rajashree Khalap

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you notice? Some race of dogs (e.q Doberman)has two spots above their eyes. It's like they have for eyes.