[INDOLOGY] Is Vr̥tra a brahmin?

Vitus Angermeier vitus.angermeier at univie.ac.at
Fri Nov 17 14:12:48 UTC 2023

There is another, longer version of this story in MBh 5.9–13, where 
Śalya tells the same story to Yudhiṣṭhira. There, a treaty between Indra 
and Vṛtra determines that, if Indra should kill Vṛtra, he will suffer 
the consequences of brahminicide. Furthermore, it is interesting that 
Indra suffers the consequences only after his second brahminicide: 
Before killing Triśiras he is warned by a woodcutter about the 
consequences. Clearly both decscendents of Tvaṣṭṛ are seen as brahmins 
because Tvaṣṭṛ is a brahminic Asura.

I do not know about any older evidence for Vṛtra being a brahmin. This 
detail was very likely included to show Indra's inferiority to brahmins 
and that even the king of the gods had to bear the consequences of 

It is also noteworthy that Tvaṣṭr, Triśiras, and even Vṛtra are 
portrayed as righteous beings following dharma and achieving special 
powers by meditation, while Indra is a rogue all the time scheming to 
destroy his rivals.

Regarding Triśiras's indo-european relatives cf. Dumezil, Georges. /The 
Destiny of the Warrior/. Translated by Alf Hiltebeitel. Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Best wishes,

On 17.11.23 12:53, Tieken, H.J.H. (Herman) via INDOLOGY wrote:

> Dear List members,
> In /MBh/ 12, 273 Indra kills Vr̥tra. From the latter's body a demoness 
> Brahmahatyā emerges which clinges to Indra. Hopkins, /Epic Mythology/, 
> p. 129 writes: "As Vr̥tra is of Brahmanic family, his slaughter is 
> regarded as 'priest murder'". On p. 131 he writes that this is Indra's 
> second Brahman-cide, as earlier he had killed Triśiras, another son of 
> Tvaṣṭr̥ (/traiśīrṣā brahmahatyā/). So I assume that Vr̥tra's 
> brahminhood goes back to his father Tvaṣṭr̥. I have no idea, however, 
> where to look for information on Tvaṣṭr̥'s and Vr̥tra's brahminhood, 
> other than the /brahmahatyā/ passages mentioned above.
> Wist kind regards,
> Herman
> Herman Tieken
> Stationsweg 58
> 2515 BP Den Haag
> The Netherlands
> 00 31 (0)70 2208127
> website: hermantieken.com <http://hermantieken.com/>
> /The Aśoka Inscriptions: Analysing a corpus/, New Delhi: Primus Books, 
> 2023.
> https://primusbooks.com/ancient/the-asoka-inscriptions-analysing-a-corpus-by-herman-tieken/ 
> <https://primusbooks.com/ancient/the-asoka-inscriptions-analysing-a-corpus-by-herman-tieken/>
> /
> /
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*Dr. Vitus Angermeier*
PI at the FWF Project "Epidemics and Crisis Management in Pre-modern 
South Asia"
University of Vienna
Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies 
Spitalgasse 2, Courtyard 2.1
1090 Vienna, Austria

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