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Wife of Agni: GODDESS SVAHA

Svaha means ‘so be it’. The English translation could be ‘hail’ to indicate the end of a mantra. It can also be fragmented as ‘su’ meaning well and ‘ah’ meaning to call. The Rig Vedic meaning is ‘oblation’. Whenever offerings are made to God through yagna, the words ‘svaha’ are uttered during the sacrifice. According to Shatapatha Brahmana, the word svaha has magical powers.

Goddess Svaha is considered to preside over burnt offerings. She is regarded as the wife of Lord Agni. Svaha is a minor goddess in Hinduism, originally a nymph. She became immortal after marrying Agni. At times Svaha is identified with Uma and Parvathi.Their sons are Pavak, Pavaman and Suchi. According to Vayu Purana, Pavak stands for electric fire, Pavaman, fire produced by friction and Suchi, the solar fire.

Goddess Svaha Devi is invoked during all homam, yagas and yajnas. It is believed that during fire sacrifices and yagnas if the word ‘svaha’ is not uttered, the gods will refuse to accept the offerings. Hence Swaha is given prime importance similar to Lord Agni Deva during Yagas and Homams. Fire sacrifice is done by a couple. This suggests that the husband-wife duo is to be appeased together and reflects a rarely researched proximity between the two.

The body of the goddess is said to comprise of four Vedas and her six limbs are regarded as the 6 Angas of the Vedas. She is considered as one of the many divine mothers of Skanda. She is also considered to be the daughter of Daksha. In her extreme manifestation, she is considered to be the wife of Rudra. Various deities of the Hindu pantheon are identified with Svaha, including Siva, Skanda, Krishna, Shri and Saraswati.

BRAHMAVANTARA PURANA: Svaha is a form of Prakriti, Shakti power without which Agni cannot burn. The three three children are the three household fires, Dakshina, Garhaptya and Ahavaniya. The offerings are ineffective if the word ‘svaha’ is not uttered. In the Mahabaratha, the three sons are described as Kama Agni, the embodiment of beauty, Amogha Agni, the invicible fire and Uktha, the means of salvation. From Uktha was born Panchajanya, another agni.

MAHABARATHA: The Kritikas are women happily married to the Seven Stars called Saptha Rishis. They are Kashyapa, Atri, Bharadhvaja, Vishvamitra, Gauthama, Jamadagni and Vashishta.Their relationship becomes sour when Agni, the God of Fire, caught sight of the beautiful Kritikas. He proposed to each of the women but they all turned them down. Hurt by the rejection, Lord Agni hide in the forests to plan his next move. There he was seen by Brihaspati’s daughter, Goddess Svaha who could take the form of a star. She is also known as Manyauti or Manyanti and is present in all matters.. Svaha fell in love with Agni but just as Kritika rejected Agni, Agni rejected Svaha. Not willing to give up, Goddess Svaha disguised herself as one of the Kritika and seduced Agni.

Pleased with her success, she went on to disguise herself as each of the other six Kritikas. However when the seventh time, she tried to make love to Agni, the fire god realised it was a trick. It was not realised by Goddess Svaha that the seventh Kritika was extremely devoted to the husband. But when the truth became known, he saluted Svaha, "Thanks to you, I have quenched my thirst without breaking the sacred laws of marriage and without incurring the wrath of the sapta rishis." Agni accepted Svaha as his consort and declared that he would not accept any oblation unless her name was chanted during the offering. During a yagna ceremony, the priests says, "Svaha," every time he pours milk or butter into the fire.

The myth also tells that Goddess used a unique form of contraception. She collected Agni’s sperm during the six occasions, carried them in the form of a bird, the Suparni and kept them in a cave. So she did not get pregnant despite the six times she made love. The cave gave birth to a boy called Skanda. The child born of Agni's union with Svaha was named Agneya; he was a divine warrior with the strength of seven men. Rumours spread that the six Kritikas were Skanda’s mother, the Rishis divorced their wives. They were sent to another part of the night sky. It must be noted that in the story of Skanda as son of Shiva, it is Agni who carries the fiery semen of Shiva to Ganga who deposits in the forest and where Skanda is born as six babies looked after by Krittika Nakshatra. The six babies are later joined together by Goddess Parvati.

BHAGAVATA PURANA: A similar instance occurred when, after the creation of worldly and heavenly beings, the perplexing question remained of the latter's sustenance. While creatures of the earth could partake of the food available there, no provision had still been made for the gods. Brahma, the creator, then decreed that the offerings poured into the sacrificial fires (on the earth), would be the food of gods. Towards this end, they worshipped the Great Goddess, who appeared before them in the form of goddess 'Svaha.'

The assembled deities then addressed her: "O Goddess, Let yourself become the burning power of fire; who is not able to burn anything without thee. At the conclusion of any mantra, whoever taking thy name (Svaha), will pour oblations in the fire, he will cause those offerings to go directly to the gods. Mother, let yourself, the repository of all prosperity, reign over as the lady of his (fire's) house."

Later, Agni, the deity of fire, approached her with some fear, and worshipped her as the Mother of the World. Then, with the chanting of sacred mantras, they were tied in the knots of holy matrimony. From then, it is believed, that whosoever pours libations in the sacrificial fire accompanied by the sacred name 'Svaha,' has all his dreams immediately fulfilled: Devi Bhagavata Purana: 9.43.

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