In Hinduism, Varuna is a deity associated with the cosmic order, the celestial ocean, and water. Varuna holds a significant place in the Vedic literature, particularly in the Rigveda, where he is often praised for his role in maintaining the natural order (rita) and upholding cosmic law (dharma). Varuna is considered one of the Adityas, the solar deities born of the goddess Aditi.
Key aspects of Varuna in Hindu mythology include:
- Cosmic Order and Dharma: Varuna is often depicted as a guardian of cosmic order (rita) and the enforcer of dharma (righteousness or moral law). He is associated with the maintenance of the natural order and the moral and ethical laws that govern the universe.
- Celestial Ocean: Varuna is also referred to as the god of the cosmic ocean. The ocean, in this context, is seen as a symbol of the vast, boundless, and mysterious cosmic waters that encompass the universe.
- Vedic Hymns: Varuna is praised in several hymns of the Rigveda, where his qualities, authority, and role in cosmic affairs are extolled. In these hymns, Varuna is often invoked for forgiveness and mercy.
- Attributes: Varuna is sometimes depicted with a noose or a lasso, symbolizing his control over cosmic order and his ability to bind those who violate it. He is also associated with the Makara, a mythical sea creature often depicted as a water monster or a crocodile.
- Transformation in Later Texts: While Varuna is a significant deity in the Vedic literature, his prominence diminishes in later Hindu texts, and he is gradually replaced by other deities like Vishnu and Shiva. In some Puranic stories, Varuna is depicted as yielding his powers to other gods.
- Varuna and Mitra: In the Rigveda, Varuna is often paired with Mitra, another Vedic deity associated with the sun and justice. Together, they embody complementary aspects of cosmic order and ethical law.
While Varuna is not as widely worshiped in contemporary Hinduism as some other major deities, his role in the Vedic literature is essential for understanding the early cosmological and ethical concepts in Hindu tradition. Varuna remains an important figure in the rich tapestry of Hindu mythology and philosophy.