What does the word ‘Asura’ mean in the Vedas?
The word Asura has 2 meanings in the text Rig Veda In positive sense and negative sense.
The word asa means breath and the word Asura would mean who has his strength in the breath or who is the possessed of breath (the meaning given by yaksha nirukta).That means an asura is someone who is posser of breath that he could perform Great actions by his power or a very powerful supreme Being.
For they are Asuras of Gods, the friendly make, both of you, our lands exceeding fruitful.(Rig Veda 7.65.2)
Here Varuna Mirta as called asuras as they are very powerful beings and similiarly powerful deities like Rudra(Shiva),Indra,Agni have been called asuras.
Asuras in negative sense is also discribed in vedas like yajur Veda tattireya samhita kanda 2 Prapathaka 4.3
The gods and the Asuras were in conflict;
Gods means devas and yajurveda provides further detail of the fight between devas and asuras.also in Rigveda asuras have negative meaning like
BRING song and hymn to Agni, Asura-slayer, enlightener of all and thought-bestower.(Rig Veda 7.13.1)
Here Agni deva has called the asuravan which means asura slayer
This prelude of my speech I now will utter, whereby we Gods may quell our Asura foemen.(Rig Veda 10.53.4)
Here Agni deva says that may we defeat our foeman that is the asuras.
Radiant, as high Truth, cherished, best at winning strength, Truth based upon the statute that supports the heavens, He rose, a light, that kills Vṛtras and enemies, best slayer of the Dasyus, Asuras, and foes.
Here Surya deva has said to slay the Asuras.
Finally,the word 'Asura' in the Vedas means possessed of breath or very powerfull beings and it also means the diffearent class of beings who quarell with the Devas as discribed in Brahmans and Puranas.
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