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PRITHI, PRITHU, PRITHIVAINYA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] Prithi or Prithivainya, i.e., Prithi, son of Vena, is mentioned in the Rigveda, and he is the declared Rishi or author of one of the hymns.

The Atharvaveda says, "She (Viraj) ascended: she came to men. Men called her to them, saying, 'Come, Iravati.' Manu Vaivaswata was her calf, and the earth her vessel. Prithivainya milked her; he milked from her agriculture and grain. Men subsist on agriculture and grain." The Satapatha Brahmana refers to Prithi as "first of men who was installed as a king." These early allusions receive a consistent form in the Puranas, and we have the following legend: -- Prithi was son of Vena, son of Anga. He was called the first king, and from him the earth received her name Prithivi. The Vishnu Purana says that the Rishis "inaugurated Vena monarch of the earth," but he was wicked by nature and prohibited worship and sacrifice. Incensed at the decay of religion, pious sages beat Vena to death with blades of holy grass. In the absence of a king robbery and anarchy arose, and the Munis, after consultation, proceeded to rub the thigh of the dead king in order to produce a son. There came forth "a man like a charred log, with flat face and extremely short." This man became a Nishada, and with him came out the sins of the departed king. The Brahmans then rubbed the right arm of the corpse, "and from it sprang the majestic Prithu, Vena's son, resplendent in body, glowing like the manifested Agni.. At his birth all creatures rejoiced, and through the birth of this virtuous son Vena, delivered from the hell called Put, ascended to heaven." Prithu then became invested with universal dominion. His subjects, who had suffered from famine, besought him for the edible plants which the earth withheld. In anger he seized his bow to compel her to yield the usual supply. She assumed the form of a cow and fled before him. Unable to escape, she implored him to spare her, and promised to restore all the needed fruits if a calf were given to her, through which she might be able to secrete milk. "He therefore, having made Swayambhuva Manu the calf, milked the earth, and received the milk into his own hand for the benefit of mankind. Thence proceeded all kinds of corn and vegetables upon which people subsist now and perpetually. By granting life to the earth Prithu was as her father, and she thence derived the patronymic appellation Prithivi." This milking the earth has been made the subject of much allegory and symbolism. The Matsya Purana specifies a variety of milkers, gods, men, Nagas, Asuras, etc., in the following style: -- "The Rishis milked the earth through Brihaspati; their calf was Soma, the Vedas were the vessel, and the milk was devotion." Other Puranas agree with only slight deviations. "These mystifications," says Wilson, "are all, probably, subsequent modifications of the original simple allegory which typified the earth as a cow, who yielded to every class of beings the milk they desired, or the object of their wishes."

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM