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Aśvaḥ is a fabulous winged horse found in several Hindu scriptures.


Etymology

Aśvaḥ is a Sanskrit word for a horse. The corresponding Avestan term is aspa. The word is cognate to Latin equus, Greek ίππος (hippos), Germanic *ehwaz and Baltic *ašvā all from PIE *hek'wos.


Description

Aśvaḥ was a white horse with two wings.


Myth

The legend states that the first horse emerged from the depth of the ocean during the churning of the oceans. It was known by the name of Uchchaihshravas. The legend continues that Indra, one of the demigods of the Hindus, took away the mythical horse to his celestial abode, the svarga (heaven). Subsequently, Indra severed the wings of the horse and presented the same to the mankind. The wings were severed to ensure that the horse would remain on the earth (prithvi) and not fly back to Indra’s suvarga.


History

There are repeated references to the horse the Rig Veda (ca. 1500 BC). The earliest undisputed finds of horse remains in South Asia are from the Swat culture (from ca. 1600 BC), but there are claims of earlier finds, dating to the 3rd millennium BC.


References

  • Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dallapiccola