Who is the god Varuna? - Hinduism
Quatr.us answers questions

Who is Varuna?

Monsoon clouds and rain with palm trees and water
Monsoon rain (Goa)

Around 1000 BC, in the Vedic period in India, Varuna was an important Hindu god. Varuna was originally a sky god - his name means "the one who covers everything;" often people think of Varuna as a rain god. He represented order in the universe (against the forces of chaos). Some parts of Varuna's identity, at least, seem to come from Indo-European roots in Central Asia, so that Varuna seems to be related to the German god Tyr, the Greek god Zeus, and the Roman god Jupiter. People worshipped Varuna with animal sacrifices.


Varuna may have been the inspiration for the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda, who seems to have become popular in eastern Iran (not so far from India) about 1000 BC, and who also represents order standing up against chaos (sometimes through his assistant, Mithra).

Over time, Varuna seems to have gotten less powerful as Indra became more powerful. When Indra took over being India's main sky god, Varuna developed a more specialized role as a judge who punished people who broke their word (like the Zoroastrian god Mithra). Varuna carried a noose so he could catch and hang bad people. He also developed a role as the sea god (like the Greek Poseidon) and the lord of the underworld (like the Greek Hades).

By about 300 BC, with the formation of the Mauryan Empire, people weren't as interested in Indra and Varuna anymore. Instead, they paid more attention to new Hindu gods - Shiva and Vishnu, who didn't demand animal sacrifices. But Varuna was still a god, and even a thousand years later sculptors still carved his image onto temples all over India.

Learn by doing: Hinduism project
More about Indra

Bibliography and further reading about Varuna:

Indian Religion
Ancient India
Quatr.us home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

Help support Quatr.us!

Quatr.us (formerly "History for Kids") is entirely supported by your generous donations and by our sponsors. Most donors give about $10. Can you give $10 today to keep this site running? Or give $50 to sponsor a page?

For the US election, check out Quatr.us' page on the Constitution. From the Revolution on, people have fought for the right to vote. In the 1800s, Andrew Jackson got poor white men the vote; the Civil War and Lincoln brought the vote to African-American men. In the 1900s, women got the vote, and Martin Luther King Jr. fought to force white people to actually let black people vote.