Gods of Health and Medicine; The Divine Physicians of the Gods
|Affiliation||Nasatya and Dasra|
|Parents||Saranyu and Surya|
|Consort||Jyoti (Goddess of the human body) (wife of Ashivin Nasatya)|
Mayandri (Goddess of Magic) (wife of Ashvin Dasra)
|Children||Satyavir (son of Nasatya and god of recovery), Damraj (son of Dasra and god of leaves), Nakula (son of Nasatya), Sahadeva (son of Dasra)|
The Aśvins, or Ashwini Kumaras (Vedic Sanskrit: अश्विन्, aśvin, dual aśvinau; "horse possessors"; also spelled Ashvins), are twin Vedic gods of medicine in Hindu mythology. Associated with the dawn, they are described as youthful divine twin horsemen in the Rigveda, travelling in a chariot drawn by horses that are never weary.
The Aśvins are an instance of the Proto-Indo-European divine horse twins. Reflexes in other Indo-European mythologies include the Baltic Ašvieniai, the Greek Castor and Polux; and possibly the English Hengist and Horsa, and the Welsh Bran and Manawydan. The first mention of the Nasatya twins is from the Mitanni documents of the second millennium BCE, where they are invoked in a treaty between Suppiluliuma and Shattiwaza, respectively kings of the Hittites and the Mitanni.
In the Rigveda, the Aśvins are always referred to in the dual, and do not have individual names, although Vedic texts differentiate between the two Aśvins: "one of you is respected as the victorious lord of Sumakha, and the other as the fortunate son of heaven" (RV 1.181.4). They are called several times divó nápātā, "sons of Dyaús (the sky-god)".
The twin gods are also referred to as Nā́satyā (possibly "saviours"; a derivate of nasatí, "safe return home"), a name that appears 99 times in the Rigveda. The epithet likely derives from the Proto-Indo-European root *nes-, "to return home (safely)", with cognates in Avestan Nā̊ŋhaiθya, the name of a demon in the Zoroastrian religious system, in Greek Nestor and in Gothic nasjan ("save, heal").
The Aśvins are often associated with rescuing mortals and bringing them back to life. Rebha was bound, stabbed, and cast into the waters for nine days and ten nights before being saved by the twins. He was explicitly described as "dead" (mamṛvā́ṃsam) when the twins "raised (him) up" (úd airayatam) to save him (RV 10.39.9). Similarly, Bhujyu was saved after his father or evil companions abandoned him at sea, when the twins “[brought] (him) home from the dead ancestors” (niváhantā pitṛ́bhya ā́, 1.119.4) The Rigveda also describes the Aśvins as "bringing light": they gave "light-bringing help" (svàrvatīr…ūtī́r, 1.119.8) to Bhujyu, and "raised (Rebha) up to see the sun" (úd…aírayataṃ svàr dṛśé, 1.112.5).
The Aśvins are invoked at dawn, the time of their principal sacrifice, and have a close connection with the dawn goddess, Uṣas: she is bidden to awaken them (8.9.17), they follow her in their chariot (8.5.2), she is born when they hitch their steeds (10.39.12), and their chariot is once said to arrive before her (1.34.10). They are consequently associated with the "return from darkness": the twins are called “darkness slayers” (tamohánā, 3.39.3), they are invoked with the formula "you who have made light for mankind" (yā́v…jyótir jánāya cakráthuḥ, 1.92.17), and their horses and chariot are described as "uncovering the covered darkness" (aporṇuvántas táma ā́ párīvṛtam, 4.45.2).
The Aśvins are mentioned 398 times in the Rigveda, with more than 50 hymns specifically dedicated to them: 1.3, 1.22, 1.34, 1.46–47, 1.112, 1.116–120, 1.157–158, 1.180–184, 2.20, 3.58, 4.43–45, 5.73–78, 6.62–63, 7.67–74, 8.5, 8.8–10, 8.22, 8.26, 8.35, 8.57, 8.73, 8.85–87, 10.24, 10.39–41, 10.143.
Your chariot, o Aśvins, swifter than mind, drawn by good horses, comes to the clans.
By which (chariot) you go to the home of the good ritual performer, by that, o men, travel your course to us.
You free Atri, the seer of the five peoples, from narrow straits, from the earth cleft along with his band, o men—confounding the wiles of the merciless Dasyu, driving them out, one after another, o bulls.
O Aśvins—you men, you bulls—by your wondrous powers you draw back together the seer Rebha, who bobbed away in the waters, like a horse hidden by those of evil ways. Your ancient deeds do not grow old.— 1.117.2–4, in The Rigveda, translated by Stephanie W. Jamison (2014)
Indian holy books like the Mahabharata and the Puranas, relate that the Ashwini Kumar twins, who were Raja -Vaidya (royal physicians) to the Devas during Vedic times, first prepared the Chyawanprash formulation for Rishi Chyavana at his Ashram on Dhosi Hill near Narnaul, Haryana, India, hence the name Chyawanprash. In the epic Mahabharata, King Pandu's wife Madri is granted a son by each Ashvin and bears the twins Nakula and Sahadeva who, are known as the Pandavas.
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