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Encyclopedia of Hindu Gods


Basic Description:  The name Asvins is related to the Sanskrit asva for horse.  The Asvins are referred to as having the heads of horses (though they take any form they wish typically). They are the twins Nasatya (the inseperable, or the one without untruth), and Dasra (the miraculous), born of Understanding (Samjna), and both married to the daughter of the sun Surya. These beings are the physicians of the gods and are associated with youth, beauty, active benevolence, curative powers, the dualism (in a complentary aspect, and not opposites). They also represent the working, agricultural class, and are of the lowest caste of gods. Some accounts (such as the Nirukta) consider them to represent night and day, heaven and earth. They are said to descend to earth thrice a day, bringing medicine with them.

Alternate Names:  Aswins, Ashvins, Açvins, the Nasatyas, the Darsas, the Ocean-born (abdhi-jau), Wreathed-with lotuses (pusbara-srajau), Sons-of-the-submarine-fire (vadabeyau), Twin-undoers-of-illness (gadagadau), and Twin-celestial-physicians (svarga-vaidya).

History/Practices:  Many times the Asvins are compared to Castor and Pollux, the twins of Zeus in Greek mythology.  They are mentioned in hymns of the Rig Veda, usually in connection with the dawn.  Also, they are called upon in wedding ceremonies and Hindu books of medicine bear their names.

Iconography:  Usually they are pictured with horse heads, due to the manner of their birth.  They are also pictured appearing in the heavens in a golden carriage, drawn by either horses or birds.


Birth:   The most common story of the birth of the Asvins has Understanding (Samjna), daughter of the Shaper (Tvastr), as their mother.  She was married to Vivisat, also known as Dharma, whose form is the sun.  She could not take his brightness any more, so she left her shadow with him and ran away, turning into a mare and seeking solitude to devote herself to religion.  Vivisat approached her in the form of a horse, and later she gave birth to the Asvins who had the heads of horses due the form of their mother.

Surya:   Being young and athletic, the Asvins competed in a chariot race with the prize as Surya, the daughter of the sun, and won her as their wife.

Recognition Among the Gods:   As the Asvins are low born, Indra did not want to let them partake of the ritual drink of the sacrifice, Soma, and would not even recognize their divinity.  The Asvins restored the youth of the sage Cyavana, who in gratitude asked Indra to let the twins partake. When Indra refused, Cyavana summoned the demon Mada, and Indra relented as none of the Devas or Asuras could control the demon, thus letting the Asvins into full recognition as gods.

Rishis:   The Asvins were guides to the rishis, the seers who received the Vedic revelation.

Riding Animal:  They ride a golden carriage, formed by Ribhus, drawn by either horses or birds.

Consort:  Surya, the daughter of the Sun.


Danliélou, Alain.   The Myths and Gods of India .  Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1991.

Knipe, David M.   Hinduism: Experiments in the Sacred .  Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc., 1998.

Jordan, Michael.   Encyclopedia of Gods .   New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993.

Moor, Edward.   The Hindu Pantheon .  Los Angeles, CA: The Philosophical Research Society, Inc., 1976.

Thomas, P.   Epics, Myths and Legends of India .  Bombay: D. B. Taraporevala Sons & Co. Private Ltd., 1957.

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