The earliest translation of the Ṛgveda (1876) by no less a Vedic scholar than Alfred Ludwig renders hári by "gelb" (yellow).

M. Mayrhofer's Etymological Dictionary of Old Indo-Aryan(2006) indirectly confirms Ludwig's early rendering. Mayrhofer determines the original meaning of hári- as "pale, yellowish; yellowish steed":

10.23.4 (= Ludwig’s translation No. 631)

Indra beschnaubt seinen gelben bart

(Ludwig, Transl. Vol. 2., Prag 1876, p. 242)


10.96.8 (=Ludwig’s translation No. 645)

„der mit gelbem barte, mit gelbem haare

(Ludwig, Transl. Vol. 2., Prag 1876, p. 258)


M. Mayrhofer, EWA (Vol. 2, Heidelberg 1996, p. 805 s.v. hari-)

„Adj. fahl, gelblich, grünlich, m. gelbliches Roß (RV +).“

Thus there is no linguistic or notional derivation from "gold" recognisable in ṛgvedic hári. Translating it nonetheless by "golden" (or cognate adjectives) would - according to established standards of (not only Sanskrit) philology - call for a sound justification.


2016-07-03 16:55 GMT+02:00 Walter Slaje <>:

You might wish to consider this:

ṚV 10.96 praises Indra’s pair of dun horses (hárī). The god is described as having hári-śmaśāru and/or hári-keśa (10.23.4b; 96.5b;8a). The colors related to Indra there are said to be harita. Geldner identified the god’s horses as “Falbenpaar” and translated the color of Indra’s hair and beard as “goldgelb” (“golden yellow”).

In their introductory comment on this Sūkta, Brereton & Jamison speak of “fallow bay horses” and “an extended pun between the words hari/harita “gold-colored, tawny”. Despite the color as they defined it, Brereton & Jamison decided to “render the former as “golden,” even in reference to the horses […]”. Indra appears in their translation of that hymn accordingly as golden-bearded, golden-haired” (X.96.8).

In 10.23.4b, however, where Indra’s beard is also referred to (índraḥ śmáśrūṇi háritābhí pruṣṇute), Brereton & Jamison translate its color more acceptably as “tawny”: “Indra sprinkles his tawny beard.“ It should be noted that the color name remains the same in the RV.


Although it is certainly most difficult to determine the semantic coverage of color designations from words and their etymologies alone, it is perhaps possible to approach it in the present case from the angle of comparisons made of Indra’s hair and beard color with the coat of animals:

Hari is used also as a designation for animals the fur of which is yellowish or tawny, such as monkeys, (dun or bay) horses, or lions. Their color could have hardly been perceived as “golden” in the sense of deep red gold, but, if at all, as “stray yellow”. The latter rather seems to match pale yellow gold. This kind of gold was widespread and has commonly been perceived in the West as gold per se, which might have inspired Western translators to introduce the gold metaphor. “Goldhaar / with golden hair” is a well-known poetic expression for blond girls in Western literature.

There is no attested primary meaning in the ṚV of hari(ta) connoting “gold(en)” in the sense of the precious metal, at least not to my knowledge.


In addition to the evidence of Ṛgvedic Kavis depicting the phenotypic appearance of Indra as they saw it, I would like to draw attention to another one, which appears to confirm that Indra’s hair and beard color was imagined as fair also in the Vājasaneyī Saṃhitā (19.91-92). The text adds some more color comparisons taken from the animal and plant kingdoms:

índrasya rūpáṃ […] |
yávā ná barhír bhruví késarāṇi […] || 91 || (Mahīdhara: yavā barhiś ca bhruvi [=] bhruvoḥ)

ātmánn upásthe ná vŕ̥kasya lóma múkhe śmáśrūṇi ná vyāghralomá |
kéśā ná śīrṣán yáśase śriyái śíkhā sihásya lóma tvíṣir indriyṇi
|| 92 ||

In brief, eyebrows [of the color] of barley and sacrificial grass; body and pubic hairs [dense] like a wolf; his beard: the hair [color] of a tiger; his hair: the shine of [the color of] a lion.


Heinrich Zimmer sen., who from the evidence he had collected at the time described Indra as with blond hair („Indra wird bärtig gedacht; wie er blondes Haupthaar (harikeśa) trägt, so auch einen blonden Bart (hariśmaśāru) Rv.10, 96, 8“ – „Altindisches Leben“. Berlin 1879, p. 265) translated the VS quote in the following manner (p. 266):

„Wie Gersten(ähren)und Grasbüschel sind die Haare an seinen Brauen, am Körper, in seinem Schooss hat er Haare wie ein Wolf, im Antlitz einen Bart wie Tigerhaar (blond, hari), die Haare auf dem Kopf sind zur Zier, zum Schmuck der Haarbusch, wie Löwenhaar sind Glanz und gewaltige Erscheinung“.


índrāyendo pári srava!



Prof. Dr. Walter Slaje
Hermann-Löns-Str. 1
D-99425 Weimar

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2016-07-03 11:02 GMT+02:00 rainer stuhrmann <>:

Sūrya is once said to be hári-keśa (10,137,7) and also, in association with the rising of the sun, hári-keśa is once said from Savitar, RV 10.139,1ab:

sū́ryaraśmir hárikeśaḥ purástāt savitā́ jyótir úd ayām̐ ájasram /

“With rays of the sun, with yellow-red (golden) hair, from the east Savitar has just raised up the unfading light.”

Also Agni is once, RV 3,2,13,  said to be hári-keśa and RV 1, 79,1, to be of "golden hair" (híraṇya-keśa).

This seems to be metaphoric in contrast to Indra´s anthropomorphic descriptions.


Am 03.07.2016 um 01:20 schrieb Allen Thrasher:
Were the other RV deities hari- in their hair, or just Indra?


On Sat, Jul 2, 2016 at 12:36 PM, rainer stuhrmann

Dear Howard,


Indra`s visible appearence:


according to RV 10,95,8 Indra is hári-keśa and hári-śmaśāru, of  “yellow-red (golden) hair” and “yellow-red (golden) beard”.

hári  is also used of the fire, the sun, of lightening and of Indras horses - and of the Soma plant.

According to Falk, however, hári  denotes  “yellowish-green to green” (Falk, p.85, Soma I and II, BSOAS, Vol. 52, No. 1,1989, pp. 77-90 ),

because this - he thinks - makes that colourful epitheton fit to the “bluish green” (Falk, p.85) colour of the ephedra plant. That would make

Indra the first punk of history.

Rainer Stuhrmann



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