By Swami Harshananda
Aditi literally means ‘the boundless’.
Aditi, the ‘devamātā’ (mother of the gods) is one of the few goddesses mentioned in the Rgveda and other Vedic literature. She is often associated with Diti, her sister, and mother of the daityas (demons).
Aditi is eulogized as the boundless and identified with practically everything in the created world. Aditi is the sky and the air. Aditi is also the three aspects of time. Aditi has become all the human beings, nay, even the gods. Aditi is the mother and she is the father too. That is why supplications are made to her to confer her blessings on children and cattle also for the removal of sins.
She is usually described as one of the daughters of Dakṣa, though sometimes she is said to be his mother. There are also passages in the Veda which mention her as the wife of Viṣṇu instead of Kaśyapa. However according to most of the accounts she was married to the sage Kaśyapa for whom she bore several sons. The gods being her sons are called Āditeyas. Sometimes the eight Ādityas are described as her sons. Out of these eight, she is said to have cast out the last son Mārttaṇḍa.
Coming to the Upaniṣads, the word ‘Aditi’ is used to denote death, the devourer (ad = to devour) and the deity presiding over the earth and as the jivātman or the individual soul.
In the epics and the purāṇas she is always depicted as the daughter of Dakṣa, wife of Kaśyapa and mother of gods including the Vāmana incarnation of Viṣṇu. Indra is said to have picked up a pair of divine kuṇḍalas (ear-rings) as they were thrown up by the churning of the primeval ocean (Samudramanthana) and presented them to Aditi. But the demon Narakāsura Bhauma (the son of Bhṅmi or earth) stole them from her. It was Kṛṣṇa who recovered and restored them to her.
Aditi is also the name of a place of pilgrimage on the bank of the river Gaṅgā.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore