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Who is Pushan?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated: May 23, 2024

Pushan is a Hindu god, part of the major pantheon, and discussed on numerous occasions in the Rig Veda. Pushan is the god of meeting, and his domain was the road. He is also prayed to for good luck in journeys, and by extension, in marriages.

At most marriage ceremonies, Pushan is invoked to give good luck to the newlyweds on the journey of their life. He is also tied to cattle and their feeding, an important role in Hindu culture. Pushan is a protective and kind god, looking after travelers on their journeys, guarding them against both wild beasts and cruel men, and helping them find the best route to happiness.

His role as a travelers’ god extends past the mortal world, as well, and he is often described as a guide to the departed souls, as well. In this role, he leads the deceased to the afterlife, one of what are known as psychopomps. Another important psychopomp in Hindu mythology is Agni, the fire god of the Hindu pantheon, and in later times the Buddha became viewed as a Hindu psychopomp as well.

Pushan is depicted as having no teeth, most often explained as the result of a fight with Shiva who is Rudra, and he carries a long golden lance, signifying his constant movement. He is seen as riding in a chariot pulled by goats, and is sometimes made a sort of sun god, hauling the sun in its course across the sky. His sister, Surya, is the avatar of the sun, and is often referred to as his lover, so his pulling of the sun can be seen as an ornate courtship ritual, as well.

The Rig Veda speaks of Pushan and the sun twice, in hymns 1:42 and 6:55, when it says: Come, burning child of the unharnessing, be for us the charioteer of order, best of charioteers, lord of great wealth; you are a stream of riches, a heap of gold. Pushan, who uses goats for horses in his chariot, the lover of his sister, the brother of Indra.

Offerings to Pushan are usually gruels of some sort, because he has no teeth. In the Taittriya Sahnhita, it is said that Rudra is responsible for this condition. It is said that a sacrifice was given to many of the gods, but that Rudra was not part of the list, and so was infuriated. In a rage, he shot an arrow into the sacrifice, simply as a way of venting his frustration. Not knowing this, Pushan bit into the sacrifice, and his teeth were shattered completely.

Another telling, in the Mahabharata, makes Rudra even more directly responsible for Pushan’s toothlessness. This tale says that after the same sacrifice, Rudra was so angry he ran into the midst of the gods in a rage, striking out Bhaga’s eyes and kicking out Pushan’s teeth. This myth of Pushan and his teeth bears a number of similarities to other Indo-European myths, most notably the Greek myth of Eurynome and Ophion, in which Ophion, in a jealous rage, kicks out Eurynome’s teeth.

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Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Mar 10, 2011

People who travel a lot or who think about the after life like to sing hymns to Pushan along with other Gods. I also know from my cousin's wedding that Pushan's name is invoked during the Hindu marriage ceremony. Pushan is asked to lead the bride and bless her marriage. The hymns are in Sanskrit but I asked a relative to translate it for me one time.

I think some people also pray to Pushan for wealth and protection. Aside from this though, Pushan is not a very well known deity. I've never heard of Pushan aside from these worships.

By burcidi — On Mar 09, 2011

I've read about similarities between Hindu gods and Greek gods in several Wisegeek articles. I think many of the Hindu gods and myths carried over to Persians and Greeks and also was influenced by Judaism and Christianity. Just like Pushan and Eurynome, they say that Durga and Artemis, Satyanarayana and Apollo and Surya and Helios have many similarities and are basically interchangeable. It's interesting how different peoples have adopted these myths and have incorporated them into their belief system.

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