In Hinduism, Aranyani is a goddess of the forests and the animals that dwell within them. She is believed to be the mother of them all. Her name comes from the word, Aranya, which means forest in Sanskrit. Goddess Aranyani animates and protects the forest, and provides food for humankind. She has been worshipped in India as the chief expression of life and fertility. Aranyani has been described as elusive, preferring quiet glades deep in the jungle. She has no fear of remote places, and keeps to the fringes of civilization without becoming lonely. Although she is rarely seen, she wears anklets with little bells, and you can hear her moving through the forest. She also enjoys dancing amongst the trees. Goddess Aranyani has the distinction of having one of the most descriptive hymns in the Rigveda dedicated to her.
One day, the goddess Parvati was standing with Lord Shiva at the foot of a Kalpavriksha tree, a divine wish-fulfilling tree in Hindu mythology. Parvati was enraptured with the beauty of the trees, and wanted to know if one was more special than the others. So Shiva told her to offer a wish to the tree they were standing before. So Parvati meditated for a few moments and then said, “Oh Divine Mother! You, who is present everywhere, you who is the embodiment of power and Energy! I Bow to You! Please bless us with a most beautiful girl with nine divine gifts of peace purity knowledge energy patience respect prosperity success and happiness.” At once, Parvati’s wish was fulfilled with a touch of breath from Lord Shiva. Immediately, the most beautiful young girl emerged from the Kalpavriksha tree. Surprised and filled with joy, Parvati recited the hymn, Rig Veda No 146 of tenth Mandala, and addressed her as Aranyani, the forest goddess.
The Rig Veda Hymn in Book 10, Hymn 146 gives a very poetic description of the Goddess Aranyani in the forest setting: Hymn CXLVI is dedicated to her. It is also repeated in Taittiriya Brahmana.
1. Goddess of wild and forest who seems to vanish from the sight. How is it that thou seek not the village? Art thou not afraid?
2. What time the grasshopper replies and swells the shrill cicala’s voice, Seeming to sound with tinkling bells, the Lady of the Wood exults.
3. And, yonder, cattle seem to graze, what seems a dwelling-place appears: Or else at eve the Lady of the Forest seems to free the wains.
4. Here one is calling to his cow, another there hath felled a tree: At eve the dweller in the wood fancies that somebody hath screamed.
5. The Goddess never slays, unless some murderous enemy approach. Man eats of savoury fruit and then takes, even as he wills, his rest.
6. Now have I praised the Forest Queen, sweet-scented, redolent of balm,The Mother of all sylvan things, who tills not but hath stores of food.
Aranyani appeared with a snow-white body clothed with roses. On her head was a wreath of flowers falling from golden hair. Her face radiated like the sun. She wore anklets with bells producing musical sounds that tinkled when she moved. She was stunningly beautiful and full of vitality and charm.