Uśanas

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Usanas, UZanas, Ushanas


Origin of Uśanas as per Ṛgveda

Uśanas is an ancient sage mentioned even in the Ṛgveda.[1][2][3] His name is stated as Kāvya Uśanas. He helped Indra to get back the cows abducted by the Paṇis.[4] Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavadgītā[5] that he is Uśanas among the kavis or wise men. Since Kauṭilya[6] has quoted Uśanas several times, it can be surmised that he was the author of an important treatise on political science.

Uśanas as per Pañcavinśa Brāhmana

The Pañcavinśa Brāhmana[7] states that Uśanas was the priest of the asuras. He is thus identified with Śukrācārya, the guru of the asuras, as depicted in the epics and the purāṇas. Two works attributed to him are available in the manuscript form. They are:

  1. Auśanasa-dharmaśāstra
  2. Auśanasa-dharmasutra.

Auśanasa-dharmaśāstra

The Auśanasa-dharmaśāstra is in prose with a few verses. A few of the more important subjects dealt with are:

  1. Aśauca - ceremonial impurity on birth and death
  2. The four varṇas and mixed castes
  3. Prāyaścittas or expiations
  4. Śrāddha - obsequial rites
  5. Punishment for mahāpātakas[8]
  6. Fourteen kinds of sciences[9]

Auśanasa-dharmasutra

The Auśanasa-dharmasutra contains several passages in prose. Several divergent views of Vasiṣṭha, Hārīta, Śaunaka and Gautama are quoted on some important points. From the quotations in other works it is reasonable to conclude that there was a work by Uśanas dealing with the subjects like:

  1. Ācāra - daily conduct
  2. Vyavahāra - secular and social dealings
  3. Prāyaścitta - expiation for sins incurred

Auśanasa-smrti

Another work called Auśanasa-smrti has also been discovered. It contains 600 verses spread over nine chapters. It deals with the following subjects:

  1. Upanayana
  2. Vedic studies
  3. Dharmas of a snātaka
  4. Śrāddha
  5. Prāyaścittas

Uśanas has been quoted by several dharmaśāstra writers. The Śukranitisāra of Śukrācārya is definitely a late work and has nothing to do with Uśanas.


References

  1. Ṛgveda 8.84
  2. Ṛgveda 9.87
  3. Ṛgveda 88, 89
  4. Paṇis is a tribe with a bad reputation.
  5. Bhagavadgītā 10.37
  6. He lived in 300 B. C.
  7. Pañcavinśa Brāhmana 7.5.20
  8. Mahāpātakas is the heinous sins.
  9. They are called as Caturdaśa-vidyās.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore